Respecting the Boundaries of Others

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Respecting the Boundaries of Others | Everyone is unique and has their own body, mind, and spirit. Each of us has the responsibility for setting our own boundaries in these areas | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #Body #Mind #Spirit #RespectingtheBoundariesofOthers #Bound #RespectingBound #BoundariesofOthersRespecting the Boundaries of Others

Everyone is unique and has their own body, mind, and spirit. Each of us has the responsibility for setting our own boundaries in these areas. We all are required to obey the laws set out by rightful authority (not going against our informed consciences). Within those parameters, we are all called to be good stewards. Our first duty of stewardship is to honor the gift of self that God has given to each of us. Each of us has a different personality, temperament, and life experiences that come together to form who we are in the present moment. Since we are endowed with the dignity of being made in God’s image and likeness, each one of us is deserving of respect.  We must regard others with the honor with which they are divinely endowed.

Boundaries provide us a sense of self and safety. Simply put, there’s a place where we stop and another starts. We don’t have the right to cross any lines in regard to another person’s body, emotions, or spiritual life. Each person has the indwelling presence of the Blessed Trinity and so is sacred. We need to be invited in by the other person. One lesson I’ve learned as a therapist is that people are not able to hear answers to questions they haven’t yet asked. Trying to force them to do so can do personal and relational damage. The same way we would not desecrate the Eucharist, we ought not violate the boundaries of another, since each person is made in God’s own image and likeness and is precious to him.

There are two fundamental emotions: love and fear. Scripture tells us that love drives away fear (1 John 4:18). As we respect the boundaries of others, what they need to feel safe, we are behaving toward that person in a loving way. Even with the best of intentions, we can cross another’s boundaries. Unfortunately, this can easily happen in the name of religion. It’s easy to convince ourselves that our expression of zeal is for the other person’s good. We actually work contrary to his grace in another when we try to force, manipulate, coerce, or guilt them into something. Doing so, especially in God’s name, can cause another person to shut down, build walls, or make vows against the godly message or even toward God himself.

It actually makes the most sense to be grateful to others when they have clear boundaries. It lets us know what they need in order to feel safe, respected, and loved, and isn’t that how we are called to treat them? It can often be humbling to accept another person’s boundaries, but it isn’t our job to change them. When we do respect the boundaries another person has set, we are truly valuing that person and not making their worth about our desired result.  This fosters true connection and allows us to remain an incarnation of God’s love for them, and as such, a vehicle of his grace. It can be difficult to grant each other free will, but in his infinite wisdom that is what God has given each of us. And are we not called to imitate the Lord?

Boundaries for Others

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Boundaries for Others | As a therapist, I’ve noticed that not many people, at least not many who come to therapy, have been taught good things about boundaries. In fact, some people have been directly or indirectly sent very negative messages about them | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #Boundaries for Others #Boundaries #OthersBoundaries for Others

Good fences make good neighbors.

– Robert Frost

As a therapist, I’ve noticed that not many people, at least not many who come to therapy, have been taught good things about boundaries. In fact, some people have been directly or indirectly sent very negative messages about them. Many have been given the idea boundaries are a sign of entitlement, artificial walls, or unhealthy distance. Others have set boundaries only to have them continually criticized and have been shamed for them. Still others have never been taught there is such a thing as setting physical, emotional, and spiritual limits, much less that doing so is a gift for themselves and others. Boundaries play a huge role in healthy communication and relationships.

When discussing or setting boundaries with others, it is best to do so in a time of calm rather than conflict.  This makes it easiest for peaceful communication and minimizes the need for defensiveness. People learn to relate to us the way they do based on what boundaries we do or don’t establish. When we realize we need to change or establish boundaries with someone, it can be a humbling experience. Being clear is essential, so the other person knows what we are comfortable with and what we aren’t. All the while, clarity must be achieved without neglecting charity. That might sound like, “I’m uncomfortable when you say or do (x).” The other person may readily accept your boundary and apologize and then the air is clear. Others may insist on their way and further discussion is needed. Fundamentally, we have a responsibility to communicate how we are okay with being treated and how we aren’t. Otherwise, we’re relying on others to guess what we’re thinking, which is a setup for disaster and is not fair to either party. Most often, people have good intentions and simply aren’t aware of our needs. We are all so different.

There may be times when someone may try our boundaries. It may be intentional or unintentional; regardless, we don’t have to be upset by such interactions once we are aware of our responsibility to have healthy boundaries. It is natural for people to forget that the boundaries have changed and behave the way they are used to. They may simply need a reminder. The more you see boundaries as a gift for the other person, the more setting and maintaining them becomes easier.

Setting boundaries used to be difficult for me, but over the years it has become much easier. A number of years ago I went to a dentist who tried to pressure me into having elective work done which I didn’t want. During a dental appointment, I stated my desire and my rationale. When he pushed the issue at the same visit, I reiterated my wishes. He proceeded to tell his assistant to do a panoramic x-ray of my mouth to see if I was a candidate for the work he was trying to pressure me to have. She put the lead apron over me and was moving the x-ray machine into place. My immediate thought was, “He is older, and a doctor, and so maybe I should do what he’s suggesting.” Thankfully, that thought only lasted a couple of seconds. The next moment, it came to me that since I am an adult and it is my mouth, I have a right to have my wishes respected. Even if I was wrong, I had the right to be wrong. I respectfully removed the x-ray apron and handed it back to the assistant and very calmly told the doctor it wasn’t going to work for me to treat with him. I calmly got up from the chair and left without any drama. That experience was a personal victory and stands out as a positive memory. I learned my safety and peace aren’t contingent on the respect others have for my boundaries. The process of deepening connection to God and myself brought me to the point of being able to respond in such a way.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for calling us your children, and for your faithful, unfailing love. Help us all to know that you desire that we live together in love and peace, and that you give us the grace to bring your kingdom to the world in who we are and what we do each day. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Connection to Others

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Connection to Others | There can be an imbalance in parenting when a child is taught he’s very special, but isn’t taught everyone else is, too. This quickly plays itself out in behavioral issues and entitlement. | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ConnectiontoOthers Connection to Others

There can be an imbalance in parenting when a child is taught he’s very special, but isn’t taught everyone else is, too. This quickly plays itself out in behavioral issues and entitlement. There is a danger in connection to ourselves and the Lord without this third leg of connection to others to balance the tripod. Being called to love and lay down our lives for each other draws us out of the self-centeredness of how special we are and into the trenches of sandpaper ministry, where we are all refined and our rough edges are smoothed. In relationships with others, our weaknesses and woundedness are revealed. It cannot be all giving and no taking, and vice versa. The nature of relationships is reciprocity and we soon find in giving we do receive and sometimes even more than what we are able to contribute. Loving others gives us the experience of being a gift. For such a blessing there is no substitute.

We are created for connection and actually tend toward addictive behavior when we do not have healthy connection with others. British journalist Johann Hari who researched drug addiction, is famously noted as saying, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”1 This isn’t only true in terms of drug and alcohol addiction, but also food, sex, work, and the other many ways we may try to self-medicate. Because God made us to be one in him, lacking community can leave us lacking an experience of unity, and this can leave us feeling unfulfilled.

As we’ve considered many times so far, the foundation for all relating – relating to ourselves in addition to everyone else – must be a healthy relationship with the Lord. He is the only one who will ever know, value, and be able to protect us perfectly, in this life and in eternity. With this basis in place, we are able to minister and receive his love to each other without anxiety, even in the face of rejection or abandonment. These feelings are very real and human, yet they begin to diminish as we become more rooted in God’s constant and unconditional love.

The same pattern that has been revealed in our relationship to God and to ourselves is manifest in our relationships with each other, being known and valued, and the need for boundaries and openness. In the following sections, we’ll take a look at those aspects in terms of the give and take in relationship to peers.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Body, Mind, Spirit

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Body, Mind, Spirit | God created man. He didn’t create spirit, soul, and body separately and then somehow weave them together. In the scripture quote above, St. Paul refers to all three of these aspects as what makes us an entire person | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #Body,Mind,Spirit #BodyMindSpirit #Body #Mind #SpiritBody, Mind, Spirit

God created man. He didn’t create spirit, soul, and body separately and then somehow weave them together. In the scripture quote above, St. Paul refers to all three of these aspects as what makes us an entire person. Because of the great expanse of knowledge regarding the different facets of the person, they have become artificially divvied up into distinct areas of study. The truth, however, is there is a continual interplay between them. Maximizing our pursuit of holiness also requires seeking wholeness, and vice versa. We are body, mind, and spirit. We can’t opt out of that fact. Spiritual balance and personal wellness require that we tend to all three of these aspects of our person.

The four main hormones that cause us to feel good are dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Dopamine is primarily associated with learning new information and accomplishing goals; oxytocin is associated with love, trust, and friendship; serotonin has to do with a sense of respect and importance; and endorphins are released when we push past our physical limits, as in a runner’s high – oh, and eating chocolate! Each of these speaks to God’s design – in his wisdom, he literally created us for cooperation, collaboration, and connection.

Cortisol is a stress hormone. It is released in times of fear and perceived threat. The release of this hormone shuts down the production of oxytocin, which we said above is necessary to foster trust, friendship, and love. Personal and interpersonal disconnection causes us to exude cortisol. That’s a fact of how we are made. This is all the more reason to respect boundaries and relate with compassion.  Otherwise, we’ll likely fuel stress in ourselves and those around us which will undermine our peace and relationships. Respect and compassion are crucial and perpetuate the cycle of connection from God, through self to others. This is critically important in every cell of our body and is an ongoing factor in every one of our relationships.

We are not at the mercy of our body’s use of hormones to keep us on guard.  The practice of contemplative prayer has been shown to decrease cortisol18. With less cortisol in our bodies, we are more inclined to calmness, compassion, and collaboration, because oxytocin is not reduced. Through such peaceful and loving interaction, mutual respect fosters serotonin because it offers us a sense of importance. We are able to accomplish more, since we are all different members of the body of Christ with varying gifts and skills working together to build the kingdom of God. Thus, the release of dopamine is bolstered. We may even push past our normal physical limits since our interactions are fueling our positive mood and so we receive an endorphin rush. God’s design is beautiful. It starts with plugging in through receiving his love in prayer.

      There are many facets to wellness for our body, mind, and spirit, and needs vary from person to person, yet some things are consistent. Physically we need good nutrition, hydration, exercise, and sleep. To have a healthy mind, we need to take on the mind of the Lord in all things. To be healthy and grow spiritually we need to be rooted in God’s love and truth. We do well to consider in what areas the Lord is calling us to greater health and discipline in each one of these areas; that way we are moving towards ever-greater holiness and wholeness. This is a much more peaceful and effective way to live rather than only seeking solutions when problems arise.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Openness with Myself

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Openness with Myself | Like any relationship, your relationship to yourself is a process. When you look at a baby or small child, do you think they have a grasp on the fullness of who they are as an individual | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #OpennesswithMyselfOpenness with Myself

Like any relationship, your relationship to yourself is a process. When you look at a baby or small child, do you think they have a grasp on the fullness of who they are as an individual? No! Rather, it is through the process of being loved by their parents, discovering their strengths and weaknesses, growing in compassion for others, and beginning to understand who they are to their parents and to God that they begin to know and value themselves, see themselves as gift and learn to return that gift to the Lord. As this happens, their dawning awareness allows them to more consciously participate in God’s loving plan and to embrace their baptismal commission as priest, prophet, and king. We don’t hit a certain age and suddenly arrive at human, spiritual, or relational maturity. Scripture tells us we are to grow up into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). That is a lot of growing to do and it is a long process.

In his book, Addiction and Grace1, psychiatrist and theologian Gerald May says that we all suffer from repression and addiction, which prevent us from responding fully to grace. So, our need to be honest with ourselves is important as we look to move more deeply in connection to God, ourselves, and others. Openness, honesty, and authenticity with ourselves are essential to greater openness to God’s mercy, healing, and grace. Realizing how vulnerable that requires us to be also gives us a gentler eye toward our neighbor striving or struggling to do the same.

Since this connection to ourselves is a process, there is no need for discouragement, particularly when we stay rooted in the foundation of connection to God. We’re not to grow in self-actualization for the sake of becoming more of ourselves for ourselves alone. Rather, the spiritual journey is about aspiring to drink more deeply of the Living Water of the love of Christ so as to be more transformed into and more intimately united to him. Taking on his mind and his regard of us is part of union with and imitation of him.

Remember, openness with ourselves, like openness with God and others, is a byproduct of the factors of connection. We naturally open up in our relationships when we experience being truly known, valued, and safe. Therefore, if we find honesty with ourselves challenging, we can consider in which of these areas we may be able to relate to ourselves with greater grace so we have the courage needed for greater truth. As a friend of mine often says that any problem is fundamentally a problem between the person and God. Conversely, any healthy formation fundamentally comes from growth in relationship with him. Authenticity doesn’t come from being perfect, but in knowing that while imperfect we are perfectly loved.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

My Boundaries for Myself

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

My Boundaries for Myself |Boundaries are protective limits to ensure safety, health, and right order. They aren’t just a right, but a responsibility, because they are an essential component of being good stewards of ourselves | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #MyBoundariesforMyself #MyBoundariesMy Boundaries for Myself

Boundaries are protective limits to ensure safety, health, and right order. They aren’t just a right, but a responsibility, because they are an essential component of being good stewards of ourselves. We put gates up in homes with babies and toddlers to protect them from dangerous situations. They also protect caregivers from having to fear for a child’s every move. I have a fence up around my yard, which protects my dog from getting lost, stolen, or hit by a car. It also protects me from worrying about her, having to go look for her were she to run off, other people from getting bitten or chased, and drivers from accidentally hitting her. Moreover, it allows her the freedom to go outside without a leash so she can explore and relax in the beautiful outdoors. Boundaries establish rules of engagement and facilitate peace for all parties involved.

Maybe we were never taught that we get to have boundaries for ourselves and so experienced them as hostile walls or as rejection from others. Most people I’ve talked to didn’t have healthy boundaries modeled or set and were never taught how to set them. The reality is that boundaries are essential for healthy relationships. Remember, boundaries will look different for different people, because each of us has unique needs. Boundaries are important in protecting us. They aren’t just a right, but a responsibility.

Since we are body, mind, and spirit, we have a need for boundaries in all three of these areas. Are R-rated movies really good for us just because we are older? Just because we can do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s conducive to our growth in wholeness and holiness. When we set limits for ourselves, we are keeping the bad out and the good in. Doing so keeps the living waters Jesus wells up within us from being wasted or polluted.

We spend exponentially more time talking to ourselves than we talk to others. That is not to say that we are constantly talking out loud, but our inner voice, thoughts, or expressions can be almost constant. What do we say to ourselves? What does our running commentary sound like? When thoughts that aren’t good for us come into our minds about ourselves, others, or situations, what do we do with them? Do we entertain them or do we “take every thought captive in obedience to Christ”? (2 Corinthians 10:5) This is a simple example of setting a healthy boundary in how we relate to ourselves. It is rooted in the boundaries God sets for us in scripture and overflows in our relationship to others.

Considering that God sees us as beloved and precious and values us beyond measure sets a firm foundation for healthy boundaries, which determine the way in which we think about ourselves. Many years ago, I had a job that required an enormous amount of travel. Being on the road so much, I often ate at restaurants. One day I realized when the hostesses would ask me how many were in my party, I regularly answered, “Just one.” This may sound like a little thing, but even though I was the one saying it, I felt a sting every time. It felt like the message I was unintentionally sending myself was that my existence was less because I was alone. Instead, I chose to say, “One, please,” and that’s what I say to this day. Each time I feel an honoring of my dignity as a person, rather than the sense of being diminished, as if I need another’s presence to give me significance.

I noticed something similar several years later. Pulling out of the driveway on my way to work, I realized that I had neglected to grab my computer bag or lunch. I caught myself saying out loud and with irritation at myself, “Ugh! I forgot that!” It made me feel frustrated and discouraged. I examined the situation and considered that actually, I had remembered the item before I drove away from the house. Good thing!  I changed my message to myself to one of gratitude that I recalled the needed item before I left.  This simple change in attitude helped me avoid so much useless frustration at myself. I felt joyful and energized rather than demoralized. Words are powerful.  The ones we speak to ourselves regularly shape how we see ourselves, and if we aren’t consciously monitoring, our self-talk can often fly in the face of how God sees us. Aligning and realigning our self-concept with the Lord’s concept of us is crucial for operating in reality and peace.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Valuing Myself

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Valuing Myself | How common it is for us to find our value in our performance, talents, skills, physical appearance, wealth or status? The scripture at the beginning of this section puts our value in right perspective because it reveals God’s perspective | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #ValuingMyselfValuing Myself

How common is it for us to find value in our performance, talents, skills, physical appearance, wealth, or status? The scripture at the beginning of this section puts our value in right perspective because it reveals God’s perspective. Jonah was sent by God to preach repentance to the Ninevites and, when they did repent and God had mercy, Jonah was angry about it. We take a look at the scripture above and find how God saw them. They were clueless! He said they couldn’t tell their left hands from their right hands! That’s not a statement of harsh criticism from the Lord, but rather an explanation to Jonah of why he was gentle and didn’t smite them like Jonah would have preferred. That clearly reveals the heart of our good shepherd who values his people simply because we are his own.

In Genesis, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve by making them think they weren’t good enough and needed to be like gods (Genesis 3:5). Even in our time we hear constant echoes of that moment. Commercials bombard us every day with messages about the myriad ways we are not good enough – how their products can rescue us from teeth that aren’t white enough, clothes that aren’t bright enough, and vehicles that aren’t fast enough, the list goes on. Focusing on the externals to find our value keeps us continually trying to earn what we already have.

Hanging our value on anything other than God’s love for us corrupts our vision and becomes how we measure ourselves and the way we believe others see us. When we try to find our worth in people or things other than God’s love, we end up hiding and are left thinking if people knew who we really were, they wouldn’t accept us. I’ve known very wealthy people who found their value in their wealth and became paranoid, thinking others only wanted to relate to them for their money. Because their lenses were faulty, it was impossible to convince them otherwise.

Our value is inherent. It can’t be earned because we already have it – we are God’s children. When we work to prove our value, we’re actually placing our worth in something transitory. These can easily become the things we hide behind. Each of us has inherent dignity in the Lord and resting in that fact alleviates so many issues. We no longer have the same self-criticism, arrogance, or condemnation of ourselves or others.

Actually, our confidence becomes unshakeable because it is in God, not in us.  This doesn’t mean we should stop giving our best effort, but that we should do so from a place of confidence in our okayness, regardless of the outcome. Our performance is no longer an attempt to earn worth, but a gift of gratitude to the Lord for the gifts he’s given us. We stop trying to control how things turn out in order to justify our existence. When we have the being right, the doing flows peacefully and joyfully. The irony is that when we don’t spend our valuable time and mental and emotional energy worrying about the outcome, things generally turn out far better. When there is struggle, we are better able to adjust in a healthy way since our focus is on the Lord.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Connection to Self

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Connection to Self | Healthy confidence and self-worth are fruits of personal integration. The same factors that are essential for connection to God are also essential for connection to self – being known, valued, and open, and having healthy boundaries | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #SufferingConnection to Self

Healthy confidence and self-worth are fruits of personal integration. The same factors that are essential for connection to God are also essential for connection to self – being known, valued, and open, and having healthy boundaries. Ideally, a child experiences being known, valued, accepted, and protected by good and loving parents. When this happens, it’s a natural bridge to having self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

So, why is it important to talk about this? Did we just move from talking about spirituality in the previous section to selfishness and being self-consumed? Not at all! Take a look again at the scripture from Mark 12 at the beginning of this section. The teacher who approached Jesus asked him which law is the most important. Jesus answered his question by also telling him the second most important law: To love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This answer hinges love of neighbor on love of self, revealing that in order to have the former, we must also have the latter.

As we consider loving ourselves, let’s remember what true love looks like. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, a passage we might already be familiar with, details the definition of love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

You might be thinking, “That sounds great, but where am I supposed to get all this love to give to others?” The truth is, God who is love dwells within us. First, we must believe it – more and more. Then we can begin to receive it and embrace it, and allow his love to modify our own ways of thinking and flow out from us toward others. Being more deeply formed in God’s mind causes us to continually reform our ways of thinking and behaving until we are eventually thoroughly transformed. That’s holiness, which is the goal of this life for all of us.  It’s not just for clergy and religious. We are all called to be holy.

If we pour a large amount of water into a container, the container will soon begin to overflow, much like we are called to overflow with God’s love for each other. Even if Niagara Falls is poured into a colander, at the end we will still have an empty colander. When we tear ourselves down in our own thoughts or self-talk, we poke colander-like holes in our hearts.  No wonder we feel so empty! When our relationship with our own self is in shambles from our constant criticism, all the helps God wants to give us can’t find a place to hold on. Even forming and maintaining a healthy external relationship becomes nearly impossible when our internal relationship is hurtful. Next thing we know, we hit a rough patch in an external relationship and we begin to wonder where God is in it all.

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver.”1 The way we relate to ourselves can be considered our mode. If we don’t believe we are lovable, we won’t be able to believe someone else loves us and their love can’t reach us. For this reason, it is crucial that we make an act of our will and conscious efforts to open to God’s grace so that when he tells us he loves us, we can allow his grace to convince our hearts that it is true. Then we will receive what we can and regard ourselves a little more charitably. He will tell us again, and we will embrace the truth a bit more, and so on. It’s a never-ending cycle; since there’s always more of him and we, with our cracks, tend to be a bit leaky.

It’s essential for us to make a shift in how we choose to relate to ourselves – it is a necessary part of being spiritually and emotionally responsible. Otherwise we are very prone to make the mistake of making God responsible for our emotions when we are the ones making ourselves miserable.  If we constantly send ourselves the message that we’re not lovable, it only stands to reason it will be hard for us to believe he or anyone else could or would love me. Taking on the mind of Christ includes shifting how we think of ourselves to how he regards us.  That is absolutely non-negotiable if we really believe he is God.

In the upcoming sections, we’ll break down the same aspects of connection we considered in connection to the Lord – knowing, valuing, and having healthy boundaries – so we can grow in our ability to fully accept, receive, and embody Jesus’ words and redeeming love for us.

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

Going Deeper

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Going Deeper | When we take a moment to look at nature, we find that life is always a process. Whether it is the acorn becoming a mighty oak, an egg hatching into a duckling, or a baby growing into an adult, life is a process | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #Suffering #GoingDeeperGoing Deeper

When we take a moment to look at nature, we find that life is always a process. Whether it is the acorn becoming a mighty oak, an egg hatching into a duckling, or a baby growing into an adult, life is a process. Since physical life is a process, why would emotional and spiritual life be any different? We would never look at a toddler and think they are wrong or bad for not being an adult. The very idea is outrageous and would deny the beauty of the child and the process God has made.

The process of growth surrounds us. It is beautiful and wonderful to know that we always have more room for development in our relationship with God, as formation is a lifelong process! He is infinite!  We grow when we allow him to increase our capacity for him and receive more of who he is. The more we receive of him, the more we are transformed into who we really are, the more our capacity for him increases, and so on.

Like any relationship, we first approach another by opening up and revealing the good things about ourselves. Next, we might show some of our less glorious moments, and begin to be vulnerable. Finally, we reveal our pain, our shame, and our weakness, that which we hold deep within us, hidden from view until we know it’s safe. Once we have a firm trust in another person’s acceptance of us, a bond is developed. We find this same pattern as we grow closer to the Lord.

As we begin to improve our relationship with our creator, we begin to see things as if through God’s eyes, which allows us to see Him more clearly and to be drawn more deeply into union with Him. This doesn’t happen once and is complete. Instead, we tend to follow a winding staircase as our deepening union with God reveals to us more dross, which we are then able to release. Liberation from our own garbage helps us know God even more closely and become more one with him. Good mental and physical health work together with our growing spiritual health. They are not at odds with each other, but together bring us into a state of wholeness and holiness that is our birthright as sons and daughters of God.

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it.”1 We need personal integration and rightly ordered relationships. By seeking God’s kingdom first, everything else falls into place. As we learn with the help of God to quiet the clamor and chaos of disorder, his grace brings wholeness to our lives. God’s perfecting work leads to fulfillment and order, personally and interpersonally.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what ways can you see you have grown in your relationship with God over time?
  2. What areas of your own formation are you growing in the most at this time?
  3. How might it help to consider your relationship with God as a process?
  4. How might it help you to consider other people’s relationships with God as a process?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for coming to us to reveal the heart of the Father and to redeem us in your love. It was not enough for you to save all mankind, but you desire a personal relationship with us. We want to grow closer to you every day. Please give us the grace to do so and to be patient with ourselves in the process. In your holy name we pray. Amen.

Action Step

What’s one thing you can do to take a step closer in the way you relate to the Lord? Take that step this week.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Ask the Lord to show you what the biggest block is to your receiving and responding to more of his love at this time in your life. Ask him what he wants you to know about that and journal what comes to you.

Scriptures for Meditation

Jeremiah 29:13

Luke 2:52

James 4:8

1 Peter 2:2

Revelation 3:20

 

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Powerlessness

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Powerlessness | The common denominator throughout almost every experience that causes us suffering is that of powerlessness.  As people, we have limited ability to affect change in situations that are difficult for us or for those we care about | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #PowerlessnessPowerlessness

The common denominator throughout almost every experience that causes us suffering is that of powerlessness.  As people, we have limited ability to affect change in situations that are difficult for us or for those we care about. This in no way diminishes our fundamental value; it simply part of the human condition. We come into the world almost totally powerless.  As we grow and develop and gain power, we have to learn to navigate our abilities without running over others, literally and metaphorically. Even though our ability to cause change increases as time goes by, we still have limitations.  These limitations can at times mean inconvenience for us and at other times they may lead to great suffering.  Regardless of our age, we always have a limit to our power.

What we do with our powerlessness greatly affects our spiritual life, peace, and joy. If we meet times when we don’t have power with pride, our self-reliant response will fail. Our failure leads to shame and shame leads to a desire to hide. When we hide, the isolation can lead to disconnection and deeper suffering. We don’t have to look very far to see this pattern in people of all ages when faced with challenging situations. There is a better response.  We can choose to accept the fact of our helplessness and meet the difficulty with gratitude that all will be used by God as gift for us, no matter how painful it may seem at the time. When we choose this way of interpreting a difficult situation, our faith and hope in God transforms the very same situation. Even though from the outside it may seem that nothing has changed, our ability to stay aware of the truth that God is with us and for us can help us to remain at peace.

St. Francis of Assisi had a particular devotion to Jesus’ incarnation, his suffering and death on the cross, and the Eucharist. He was awestruck by the humility of the omnipotent God who chose to make himself powerless to stoop down to us and raise us up to him. In doing so, Jesus gave us these three profound examples of how to embrace our own powerlessness. When we have times when we are painfully out of control, we can take consolation in the fact that the Lord understands our experience and we can trust that he is present to us through them. They can be occasions for intimacy with him if we choose to endure them with him. There is something about accepting and even embracing our powerlessness that prevents us from complicating already difficult situations.  Walking through the trouble with Jesus enables us to reject the temptation to put inordinate pressure on ourselves (or others) to fix things that are beyond our control. Once we’ve done all the Lord has asked of us, we lay the experience at his feet with hope, not for a particular outcome, but hope in him and his goodness that will use the trial for our good.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What emotions arise in you when you think of Jesus choosing to embrace powerlessness as a baby, at his death, and in the Eucharist?
  2. What emotions arise in you when you think of being powerless?
  3. What do you think about the idea of embracing your powerlessness as imitation of the Lord?
  4. Do you think it would affect your experiences of suffering to consider them as occasions for intimacy with the Lord, as a sharing in his powerlessness and an imitation of him?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the immensity of your omnipotence and the exceeding humility with which you laid your majesty aside for our sake, to embrace the incarnation, your suffering, and to remain with us in the Holy Eucharist. Thank you for showing us how deeply you desire intimacy with us and for leaving us examples of how to embrace the powerlessness of our humanity. Help us to remember that you are with us always in the Blessed Sacrament. We pray all this in your holy name. Amen.

Action Step

Find a time our Lord set aside his omnipotence for our sake and place a reminder of it, either as a scripture quote, an image, a song, etc., somewhere you will see it throughout the week.

Journaling/Reflection

Ask the Lord to show you what you most fear about your own powerlessness and invite his perfect love into that place of fear.

Scriptures for Meditation

Mark 10:45

Luke 1:26-38

John 13:3-72

Corinthians 8:9

Philippians 2:5-11

Hebrews 4:15

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Knowing Myself

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Knowing Myself | What is the truth of who we are as God sees us? In creating us he made us in his own image and likeness and called us very good | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #Suffering #KnowingMyselfKnowing Myself

What is the truth of who we are as God sees us? In creating us he made us in his own image and likeness and called us very good. (Genesis 1:31) He called us his own and bound himself in covenant with us. He has a plan for our good. He sent his only Son to reveal the depths of his love and mercy to us and to adopt us as his children. He has every hair of our head counted. (Luke 12:7) He gives himself to us intimately through the Eucharist and runs to embrace us as soon as we turn to make our way back to him after we fall.

In being a missionary of God’s love to ourselves, it’s necessary to know something about ourselves. It’s important to take time to get to know what we need in order to be at our best. When we grow in knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses and learn what motivates us, we are able to understand ourselves as the gift God made. This self-knowledge gives us an insight into the needs of others, as well. Coming to understand ourselves better doesn’t mean that we will necessarily look to the fulfillment of our selfish desires; rather we are more equipped to stay along the narrow way to the Lord. It really is like taking a step back and considering our soul as a little child. With greater understanding of who we are as individuals, we can have better patience, wisdom, and counsel for ourselves. This is self-talk at its best.

Without true self-knowledge, we inevitably end up desperate to be known by others. While we are made for community with our brothers and sisters, it is meant to be from a place of health, reciprocity and freedom, not a place of anxious need. Sadly, if we are frantic to be known by others, we devalue ourselves, disregard the healthy boundaries we need, risk crossing others’ limits, and end up relating to them as a means to an end, without being present to the gift they are. Happily, when we start from a place of being filled by the Lord’s knowledge of us and taking on his mindset about ourselves, we start from a place of fullness rather than starvation. This is how we can foster peace in our lives and in our relationships and drastically reduce unnecessary complications, pain and even trauma.

Using how God sees us as the gold standard of truth makes us fearless in self-examination. It’s amazing how powerful this can be – like an inoculation against comparison, judgment and rejection, even of ourselves. A quote I mentioned before is “God sees sin as pain in us”1 from Blessed Julian of Norwich. When we look at ourselves with God’s eyes, we don’t hide in shame and can get back on the right track much more quickly when we stumble. Even our sin, as God sees it, is an occasion for compassion. We don’t have to worry that forgiving ourselves for sin or weakness will lead to complacency if we remain open to the Lord.  The compassion of God is always oriented to making us more like him.

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

Suffering

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Suffering | There are times in all our lives when we go through trials: illness, rejection, abuse, death of a loved one, or loss of a dream, just to name a few. When such things happen, it can be difficult to stay rooted in the truth of God’s connection to us | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #SufferingSuffering

There are times in all our lives when we go through trials: illness, rejection, abuse, death of a loved one, or loss of a dream, just to name a few. When such things happen, it can be difficult to stay rooted in the truth of God’s connection to us. Even if we’ve had mountaintop experiences of God’s love, sufferings such as these can cause us to feel isolated, disconnected, or abandoned, even from our all-loving creator.

Let’s take a look at the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary when the archangel Gabriel appeared to her. He greeted her as “favored one” (Luke 1:28). He went on to promise that the son she would conceive would rule with greatness over an everlasting kingdom. Yet, she is the Mother of Sorrows. She went on to be told, by Simeon, that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. She had to flee to Egypt to protect her newborn baby, watched him be contradicted continually throughout his life, deserted by his closest friends, mocked and mercilessly tortured, and subjected to a shameful death without seeing the fulfillment of those promises. It was not because God didn’t see who she was or value her. Remember, she is highly favored. We see the greatest example in Jesus himself, whom the Father called his beloved Son, and yet the cup of abuse and death was not taken away from him.

These cases show us that God has a much bigger big picture than ours. He is outside of time and sees all eternity. When suffering comes, it is not a result of not being loved and valued by the Lord. He will work all things to our good, even if it does not happen in this life. We’re used to watching sports or playing games – whoever has the most points at the end is victorious. In this life, we don’t see the scoreboard. Only after death will we know fully how God, who will not be outdone in generosity, will repay all we have to endure.

When Jesus was betrayed, Peter was so terrified of physical suffering he three times denied knowing him. Even so, only days after the Lord’s resurrection the Acts of the Apostles presents us with a bold and courageous Peter proclaiming the truth regardless of threat and persecution. He even rejoiced when he was physically abused for the sake of preaching about Jesus. Peter finally learned through the Lord’s resurrection what Jesus had told him all along; His kingdom is not of this world. When we remember the same fact, we are able to keep our view on eternity rather than seeking our reward in this life.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Recall a time of suffering or trial in your life. Did you question God’s love, value, or protection of you? Why or why not?
  2. What, if anything, have you found helpful to remind yourself of God’s love and to connect to him during painful times?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we know you suffered and left us an example of faith in our Father’s love. Please grant us the grace to follow you. Remind us of the Father’s constant love for us, even in the most difficult times. In your holy name we pray. Amen.

Action Step

Consider what it is you are most caused to doubt about God during times of suffering. Write a letter to yourself reminding yourself of God’s love that you can read when difficulties come your way.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Consider your answer from number two in the discussion questions. Ask the Lord what he wants you to know about that and note what he brings to mind.

Scriptures for Meditation

Sirach 2

Wisdom 3:1-9

Luke 2:34-35

Romans 11:33-36

Hebrews 4:14-16

Even amid your sufferings, may the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Embracing God’s Boundaries

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Embracing God’s Boundaries | In our connection to God and fully seeking to respond to his love for us, we now come to the concept of embracing the boundaries he sets for us | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGod #EmbracingGod’sBoundariesEmbracing God’s Boundaries

In our connection to God and fully seeking to respond to his love for us, we now come to the concept of embracing the boundaries he sets for us. We’ve discussed morality as God’s protection over us since he is our all-loving creator. The Ten Commandments are the starting point of these boundaries. They lay out for us, in the most foundational way, how to live under the umbrella of God’s protection. He’s not lying in wait for us to break his law so he can zap us. Rather, as the good shepherd, he provides safe pasture, knowing what we need and what truly nourishes us.

And so, we move from the Ten Commandments to the Beatitudes. It would have been too much for these teachings to have come in any other way than by the mouth of Jesus, who made them incarnate for us. He has called us to follow in his footsteps, not just to obey the rules but also to be one with him. He whom we are called to espouse forever in Heaven is our crucified love. In the Gospel of John, Jesus told us:

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own, but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15: 18 – 20).

Obedience to the law will be empty and confounding, but taking up our crosses and following him will lead to the deepest intimacy. Rules for the sake of rules lead to turning inward. Receiving the boundaries, he sets for us as coming from the heart of our all-loving Father rather than from a place of control leads to boundless life and gratitude.

As a therapist, I have seen others longing or even adamantly determined to obtain an end they cannot see, which would be disastrous. It’s been humbling because I know the Lord has seen me do the same. At times, he’s said no to my petitions, and I’ve taken it as rejection, proof of a lack of love, when in truth, it is quite the opposite. Not only that, but he’d rather risk being misunderstood by me than give me anything other than what is the absolute best for me.

Our Lady of Lourdes told Saint Bernadette Soubirous, “I do not promise you happiness in this world but in the next.”1 We know the Lord has our eternal good in mind for us. Whatever limits he sets or requires of us in this life, or whatever he might ask us to endure is to our ultimate and perpetual good. In her book, Crucified Love, Ilia Delio writes of God’s goodness, “This nature of the good underscores a Trinity of eternal love whose immensity of divine goodness is such that no greater good can be thought.”2 Put simply, if we think something is desirable or a good idea, it is only a shadow of the goodness of God.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever taken care of children or a pet and experienced the child or animal seemingly regarding your protection as meanness? Describe the experience from your perspective as the caregiver and consider God acting in this way toward you.
  2. What might be preventing you from seeing that God’s limits for you are in fact his protection?
  3. Do you tend to see God’s law as what he wants from you or what he has for you?
  4. If you look at God’s law as what he wants for you, why do you think that is?

Prayer

“Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me, Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out your holy and true command.”3 – St. Francis of Assisi

Action Step

Consider your life. In what area do you tend to feel God is asking the most from you? Ask him to show you what he has for you in that same area.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Spend some time considering the paradox of a personal cross as a mysterious gift and note what comes to you here.

Scriptures for Meditation

Proverbs 3:5-6

Psalm 16:11

Psalm 119:105

Luke 9:23

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Hebrews 10:36

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Valuing God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Valuing God | In taking up this section on valuing God, something a friend of mine once said to me comes to mind, “God can’t be a priority.” Her point was that he is all; he is the only priority | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGod #ValuingGodValuing God

In taking up this section on valuing God, something a friend of mine once said to me comes to mind, “God can’t be a priority.” Her point was that he is all; he is the only priority. Consider the passion of our Lord: if Jesus’ commitment to us wasn’t absolute, things could have turned out radically different. He could have abandoned the cross at any point. However, because he is consumed with love for us, there was nothing to evaluate or reconsider. He didn’t need to do a cost/benefit analysis as to whether we would respond well to the love he would show to us and the graces he would merit for us.

Do we value the Lord the same way? If we don’t start from a firm understanding that he knows us and has the big picture of this life, and the next, perfectly in view, then we are likely to have a honey-do list for the Lord. If we don’t realize the depth of his consuming passion for us personally, then we’re likely to default into relating to him out of servile fear. Without realizing that the limits he sets for us are a manifestation of his protection for us, we’ll treat him like a vending machine, dispensing the grace we need to accomplish our plans, since we presume we have to look out for ourselves. We’ll be insulted, angry, and feel rejected and abandoned when his way is not our way.

When we relate to the Lord by valuing him for who he is, not what he does or what he can do for us, we’re able to remain consistent. Though we may struggle with painful emotions at times, our regard doesn’t ebb and flow based on how we evaluate his performance. It’s a stance of submission to his wisdom, but primarily an acceptance of his infinite passion.

Let’s not cheat ourselves out of the greatest romance the world has ever known and the greatest lover for whom we could ever long by focusing on the ‘how’. When we keep our focus on the ‘why’ of letting the all-loving God love us and loving him in return, the details don’t take care of themselves, they are taken care of by him according to his infinite wisdom and in a way that will, one day, blow our minds.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you tend to relate to God with a focus on what you want him to do? What is it you find yourself wanting from him?
  2. Do you consider he has more for you than your limited understanding can figure out or ask? Why or why not?
  3. Do you find it difficult to trust his love for you? Why or why not?

Prayer

Most high and glorious God, lover of our soul, we thank you for who you are and that you are trustworthy. Please help us to receive your love so completely, that we may lose ourselves and thereby find ourselves in your heart. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Action Step

Consider making the intentions of Jesus’ Sacred Heart your only intention for this week and consider what his intentions might be.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Ask the Lord to show you if there are any areas of your life where you don’t believe his design and power are capable of accomplishing anything greater than your own hopes. Ask him to show you why this is difficult for you to trust him with and what he wants you to know about it.

Scriptures for Meditation

1 Chronicles 16:34

Psalm 63:1

Psalm 71:8

Psalm 1:6

Habakkuk 3:17-18

John 4:24

Knowing God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Knowing God | Knowing God is crucial.  We've already been discussing connection to God and mostly it’s been about who he is and how he is toward us | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGod #KnowingGodKnowing God

Knowing God is crucial.  We’ve already been discussing connection to God and mostly it’s been about who he is and how he is toward us. We see he is personal, knows us perfectly, desires for us to experience profound intimacy with him, cherishes us beyond measure, and operates in our best interest, (which is far better than we could ever hope for or imagine).  He protects us and provides for us always and perfectly in the ways necessary to draw us to him.  When we stay within his loving boundaries, we remain in him and under the shelter of his wings. If we move out from under his protection by sin, he immediately takes us back, time and again, when we turn back to him in repentance.

We can miss all this.  We can believe God wants something from us that we really can’t give him. We can live our lives with the burden of assuming he is harsh and demanding and his love must be earned. If we wear the lenses through which we perceive him as distant, we will interpret events as though he is cold and uncaring. There are all sorts of different versions of imperfect lenses, but only the ones of truth help us see him clearly and experience him accurately.

If someone close to us is misunderstood, we might be surprised or maybe even a little defensive of them. That’s because we know them, who they are and their heart, and we readily come to an accurate understanding of their behavior in a given circumstance. We have to begin with an understanding of God as all good and all loving when we consider the circumstances and events of our lives, or we’ll misunderstand who he is. If we don’t start there, we will never be able to understand what he does or allows to happen. We can’t interpret him through the lens of our limited understanding of circumstances, but rather we need to remain trusting of who he has revealed himself to be when times are difficult.

Inevitably, life has times of trial and challenge. Sadly, we can be so fearful of displeasing God we can sometimes rush to a conclusion without starting from a right understanding of who he is. We can feel so lonely, isolated, and forgotten.  We might put inordinate pressure on ourselves to earn his love, when the truth is he is madly in love with us. Our lenses, like the lenses of a pair of binoculars, can be adjusted. As we grow closer to him, the focus continues to become clearer. He is infinitely loving and good, so there is always room for greater clarity in our vision of him. This clarity is gained as it is in all relationships, by spending time together in open communication. It is not enough to know about him. We must seek to know him and to open up to him in return. This relationship requires us to reciprocate.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. When you find yourself struggling in life, through what lenses are you usually viewing God? (e.g., aloof, demanding, etc.)
  2. Why might you see him that way?
  3. What aspect of God’s goodness is the most difficult for you to internalize? Why?

Prayer

Watch Cory Asbury’s video for his song “Reckless Love”1 at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc6SSHuZvQE.

Action Step

Write yourself a note or letter about who God truly is that you can read when you are in difficult times.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Take some time to reflect on your note or letter from the Action Step and ask the Lord to reveal to you what he particularly wants you to take to heart.

Scriptures for Meditation

 

Psalm 46:10

Psalm 119:10

Jeremiah 9:23-24

John 17:3

2 Peter 3:18

 

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Openness with God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Openness with God | The human body is made up of about seventy percent water. Water is necessary for healthy energy levels and flushing toxins and plays a key role in the proper functioning of our whole system | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #OpennesswithGodOpenness with God

The human body is made up of about seventy percent water. Water is necessary for healthy energy levels and flushing toxins and plays a key role in the proper functioning of our whole system. We need it for refreshment on a hot day, for cleansing of dirt and sweat, and it is essential to our lives and the lives of the plants and animals we consume for nutrition. Water is crucial. When a water source is stagnant, we know to be suspicious of it because it can more likely be a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites.

Jesus doesn’t just tell us he will give us water or that he will give us flowing water. He says he will give us living water! This water is his very life! His only requirement is that we be open by acknowledging our need for him. To ask him is the only thing the woman at the well had to do (John 4:4-30), and all we have to do is ask him, too.

For some of us, it’s difficult to express our needs, even to Jesus, because we experienced pain when we were vulnerable in the past. If others have used our vulnerability against us, it can make us feel weak and unwilling to admit our need. Perhaps we’ve asked the Lord in, but we keep him sequestered to the foyer of our hearts and make other rooms off limits to him. Maybe there is a particularly messy room we think we haven’t sufficiently tidied and are ashamed to let him into, or a room we are too scared to enter at all. Jesus honors our desire for control of our own inner self, and knows we need to pace ourselves.  When we allow Jesus to bring his living water to us, even if it is only to the foyer, he can begin to heal our wounds, calm our fears, remove our shame, and establish his spring of living water in the depths of our being.

Our need for this living, flowing water is as essential to our souls as clean water is to our bodies. Jesus constantly and eternally supplies us with this heavenly water.  We only need to remember it is there and draw from him. Living water would, of course, be flowing. Let’s not stop the flow with sandbags and dams of sin and pain, but allow Jesus free reign to flow into every area of our minds and hearts, and through us to others.

Wherever we are on our journey, however long we’ve been walking with the Lord, there is more to open to him because he has so much more of himself for us. We are known intimately, treasured unconditionally, and he is solicitous to protect us. He makes himself vulnerable and accessible to us at every moment, every day and night. All we need to do is to open up and ask for more of him.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what ways and at what times do you experience the greatest ability to be open to the Lord?
  2. What areas are the most difficult to open to him? Why?
  3. In what areas would you like to experience greater openness with him? Tell him.

Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

  1. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
  2. And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,

did instruct the hearts of the faithful,

grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise

and ever to rejoice in his consolation,

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.1

Action Step

Ask the Lord to show you if there are areas of your life and your heart you have not yet opened to him or which he desires to fill even more fully with his living water and then give him permission to give you his life in these areas.

Journaling/Further Reflection

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, it was noon, the hottest part of the day and the time people were least likely to draw water – she was hiding. She was hiding because of her shame, but he longed to bring his light to her areas of darkness so she might live in freedom. Ask the Lord to show you if you hide in any way because of shame. Spend some time writing to the Lord inviting him into these areas. Take time to receive him into those rooms.

Scriptures for Meditation

Job 13:15

Psalm 119:18

Matthew 16:24

Luke 24:45

Romans 12:2

James 4:7

Revelation 3:20

God’s Openness

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

God’s Openness | The God of the entire universe, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, is open in relating to us. One of my favorite scripture verses is from the short little book Baruch, “Blessed are we, O Israel; for what pleases God is known to us!” (Baruch 4:4) | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #God’sOpennessGod’s Openness

The God of the entire universe, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, is open in relating to us. One of my favorite scripture verses is from the short little book Baruch, “Blessed are we, O Israel; for what pleases God is known to us!” (Baruch 4:4). How amazing it is that he chooses to make himself known to us! Not only does he reveal who he is, but also what pleases him. There is tenderness in his self-revelation and, given our free will, vulnerability. What if we didn’t know how to please him who loves us so personally and intimately? How we’d long to know how to bridge that distance!

Throughout time, we see God stooping further and further to show himself to us. Knowing we would many times reject him, he still so desires a relationship with us that he became incarnate. In doing so, he manifested who he is to us in a manner to which we could relate. Of all the ways he could have done so, he came as a tiny, helpless baby and has made himself even more vulnerable – to the point of a gruesome crucifixion and death. Finally, he remains in the Eucharist, where he hides his majesty in bread and wine. In the late 1600s, Jesus revealed his sacred heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. He asked her to remind us how much he loves all mankind and how he longs for our love.

It’s important for us to take note of the Lord’s openness with us. He starts from a place of seeing each of us as his dear children who are very good. He treasures us beyond measure, promises to provide for and protect us, and to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28). He gives us the freedom to choose or refuse him, and then intimately bares his heart to us. He wants an intimate relationship with us, but only one of our free choosing. He is omnipotent but doesn’t force himself on us. The Lord, who can easily go through locked doors, chooses to stand at the door of our hearts and knock (Revelation 3:20).

When someone knocks at our door, we can ignore it, dismiss the person, speak to them through the closed door, open it and talk to them on the porch, welcome them in as a guest, or bring them in to live with us in deep communion. What is our response to the Lord? He has knocked and continues to knock daily. It is up to us to answer.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What comes to mind when you think about God’s openness with you?
  2. Is there anything about his vulnerability that surprises you? If so, what?
  3. Is there a particular memory, thought, or emotion that comes to mind in considering Jesus opening himself to you?

Prayer

Most high God, omnipotent Lord of the universe, we give you thanks and praise for revealing yourself to us in the expanse and beauty of creation. Thank you for making yourself known to us in an infinite number of ways. More than all this, we are humbled and in awe of how you empty yourself for us and open yourself to us, longing for our love. Please give us eyes to see you and ears to hear you knocking at the door of our hearts, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Action Step

Spend a few minutes each day with the concept or an image of the Lord opening himself to you. Thank him and ask for the grace to let him in more deeply.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Consider the Lord opening himself totally to you. What is moved in your heart when you think of this? Wonder? Delight? Fear? Confusion? Tell the Lord and ask him what he wants you to know.

Scriptures for Meditation

Isaiah 53:7

Zechariah 9:9

Luke 2:4-7

John 6:54-57

John 13:5

John 19:31-37

2 Corinthians 8:9

God Provides Boundaries

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

God Provides Boundaries | The reason we started with the concept of connection to God was so we could have a clear understanding of the fact he is with us, knows us intimately, values us for who we are and sent his Son to save us by emptying himself on the Cross | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #Prayer #GodProvidesBoundariesGod Provides Boundaries

The reason we started with the concept of connection to God was so we could have a clear understanding of the fact he is with us, knows us intimately, values us for who we are and sent his Son to save us by emptying himself on the Cross. He is continually emptying himself in the Eucharist and pouring his graces and mercy upon us, which draw us into the life of the Trinity. He makes his home in us through baptism and animates us by his Spirit. We cannot let go of this foundation as we consider this section on boundaries. If we do, we risk having a very distorted image of God.

As the author of life and our creator, he knows what limits are good for us, foster our health, and lead us to deepest intimacy with him, our fulfillment, and our prince of peace. The same way he set limits for the ocean, knowing what is good and necessary to foster life, so does he do for us. There is something very different, though, about his boundaries for us. He has given us free will, which means we can choose to embrace him and be embraced by him. We can run to our Father’s loving and protective arms or we can refuse them and their protection for us.

Our free will allows us to choose whether to abide by his law. We may choose to see his law as a set of rules that he requires us to follow, but the danger in this is it can very quickly lead to bitterness, judgment, and resentment. This was the mindset of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son who could not tolerate the father’s mercy. The father’s goodness caused him outrage, which revealed his own lack of connection to his father. He was obeying the rules as boxes to check off and a way of keeping his nose clean. This clearly did not lead to a depth of intimate relationship and certainly prevented him from being a conduit of grace to his brother. It’s difficult to imagine the older brother had much satisfaction in life beyond his self-righteousness.

There are times I have to refuse to give my dog things because I know they would not be good for her. Her limitations of language and understanding prevent me from being able to explain to her why I can’t let her go off-leash near traffic or why I can’t let her eat food that would be unhealthy for her. Sometimes, it hurts to say no to her and I have to remind myself it is for her own good. Indulging her desires, knowing they would be dangerous or deadly for her, would actually be an act of selfishness, not of love for her. How much greater the chasm between God’s understanding and ours! How much more does the Father know about what is good for us! His law is consistent because his wisdom is perfect and his loving protection is unwavering. Of course, we can choose to see God’s boundaries as requirements, because they do require our free response. The much fuller truth is that his law is first and foremost a providential and protective gift. We can respond with grudge or gratitude.

Blessed Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic, was gifted with revelations from our Lord himself. From what was shown to her she wrote Revelations of Divine Love in which she shares a profoundly compassionate and merciful thought, “God sees sin as pain in us.”1 He knows partaking of forbidden fruit makes us sick and it excites compassion from his heart. When we wander off he seeks us out and waits to embrace us when we turn back to him. He has already prepared for our return home to him by the mercy he offers us and which he longs for us to experience. He bathes our wounds, even those of our own making.  He’s just that good.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Do you experience the sacrament of reconciliation as a time of fear and shame, or as a time of intimate reunion with God?
  2. Why do you think you experience the sacrament of confession the way you do?
  3. What strikes you as the greatest difference in seeing God’s boundaries as for us versus something that he wants from us?
  4. Does considering that God’s limits are an expression of his love change how you see his law and/or how you see him?

Prayer

All good and loving Father, your protective arms reach out to embrace us and keep us safely on the path to eternal joy with you. Thank you for your infinite mercy for the times we’ve chosen our understanding over your boundless wisdom and goodness. Please give us the grace to follow Jesus, the way to you. In his holy name we pray. Amen.

Action Step

If there are any aspects of morality with which you struggle, ask the Lord to show you how it is an expression of his loving protection for you.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Do you most often experience God’s law as gift or as demand? Consider if this might be based on your past experiences of limits from parents or early caregivers. Ask the Lord what he wants you to know.

Scriptures for Meditation

Deuteronomy 28:1

Deuteronomy 30:19

Joshua 1:8

Psalm 119: 165

Jeremiah 29:11

Ephesians 2:4-9

Prayer

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Prayer | Personal prayer is essential to internalizing the radical, profound intimacy the living God wants to experience with us. His love for us is infinite. It might be easy to read the last line and agree with it in our head, but in our heart still feel less than adequate, rejected, or forgotten | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #Prayer #fearlesschapter6 #fearless6Prayer

Personal prayer is essential to internalizing the radical, profound intimacy the living God wants to experience with us. His love for us is infinite. It might be easy to read the last line and agree with it in our head, but in our heart still feel less than adequate, rejected, or forgotten. Our mind might be able to quickly categorize the statement as true, especially if we grew up in church, have studied Theology, or are religious or clergy. Yet, absorbing the Truth – God – is a lifelong process, one we will likely continue throughout eternity. It is not enough to know the description of God or how he desires to relate to us, even Satan knows the truth. We must make ourselves available to that relationship by spending time exposing our heart to him who exposes his heart to us.

There are many ways to pray, spontaneous intercession, praise and worship, the Rosary, litanies, or Mass.  Contemplation is a quiet type of prayer in which we allow the Lord to permeate us at the core of who we are and transform us into him.  To go to the source of water – a spring or a river – and draw water, but not consume it and allow our bodies to absorb the minerals and hydration would still leave us weak and dehydrated. St. John of the Cross talks about the importance of such prayer. He says,

Learn to abide with attention in loving waiting upon God in a state of quiet. Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the spirit of love. 1

Contemplation is spending time drinking in the living water of God’s self-gift to us by being present to the Lord who is present to us. This is fundamentally being before him in quiet availability with our hearts open to his heart. He dwells within us through Baptism and we receive him in the Eucharist, but contemplation is the process of being infused with him.

Because contemplation is personal and intimate prayer, St. John says it is “secret.” It is taking time away from other people, activities, and things, and being “in a state of quiet” paying attention to God and waiting on him. In that kind of waiting, we make time and space to let our hearts become available to be infused by his “spirit of love.”  This love sets our souls on fire. The caveat is that we must grant him permission to permeate us in order for this to happen. As we know and have seen in the connection figure, he is within us at our deepest core. We aren’t trying to get him inside us from out there somewhere. Rather, we are allowing him to saturate us from the inside out.

Just like any relationship, growing closer and allowing someone into our heart and life is a process. The more we receive God, the more we love him in return, the more we feel safe with him, and the more we open ourselves up to him. In opening more, we permit him to more truly, fully, and deeply transform us and our lives. In relationships, we tend to reveal the good things about ourselves first. When the other person accepts us at that level, we have the courage to share some of our frailty with them and hide less of our weakness. Eventually, we feel confident enough in their good will toward us that we share with them our shame and pain. The same is true of how we grow in relationship with the Lord. This is why it takes time. It’s not a limitation in him but in us, and one with which he is perfectly patient and persistent. He always calls us more deeply into his peace and love, and it requires vulnerability to respond to his invitation.

Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, has a much richer meaning than we are used to. It doesn’t simply mean the absence of conflict and stress. It is about wholeness, fulfillment, completion, and perfection. Jesus is the prince of peace. For this reason, it makes sense that spending time admitting him more deeply into every aspect of our lives draws us into deeper wholeness. It also draws us to holiness as we become more imbued with him. Thus, growing deeper in prayer can lead to us becoming more in touch with our brokenness or woundedness. This is an act of God’s love and mercy because he desires to make us whole, but it requires courage on our part to allow him to do so.

Spending time in quiet certainly can seem to amplify the noise we may have inside us. Sometimes that noise is busy-ness. At other times, it may be that we are using internal noise to drown out pain. I remember a time in my life when even a moment of quiet was intolerable. I had to always have external sound turned up really loud to overcome the cacophony of chaos inside. I’d get in my car and immediately turn the music up and get home and instantly turn the television on. The expression ‘peace and quiet’ sounded crazy to me because quiet was anything but peaceful. As our own wounds are healed, the noise within ceases. We relate in less painful ways toward ourselves, and others. We put up fewer and fewer obstacles to the flow of God’s love into us and through us to those he puts in our lives. The process and cycle of connection continues to deepen on all levels.

In order to succeed in the practice of contemplation it is helpful to make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just as in any relationship, we are capable of participating with another even if there is something out of order between us, but it is much more intimate when the conflict is resolved. The same is true for our relationship with God.  Resolving conflict by confessing our sins is the first step to repairing and building anew. Starting from a state of conflict will only start us off from a place of noise, rather than a place of quiet. In addition, when we practice contemplation with God it can be helpful to find something simple that can hold our attention on him. For some that may be a scripture or a title of Jesus. For others, it may be an image or statue of him that we picture in our mind or have present with us. The point here is not to busy our mind, but to open our heart to his love in a state of receptivity.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion

  1. Do you find yourself avoiding being still and quiet with the Lord? Why or why not?
  2. What is the internal noise you might be trying to drown?
  3. Have you ever considered that prayer requires courage? What are your thoughts on this?
  4. Have you found a key that opens the door to prayer for you? What is it? (Scripture, image, etc.)

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your infinite love for us and for desiring us to live in the fullness of that reality. Please grant us the grace to receive this truth more fully into the depths of our mind and heart and be set ablaze by the fire of your love so our lives can give your warmth and light to all those we meet.

Action Step

Spend some time finding a scripture, quote, or picture that draws you into a sense of God’s love.

Journaling/Further Reflection

If you have a sense of disquiet when you go to pray, ask the Lord to show you why that might be and ask him what he wants you to know about it.

Scriptures for Meditation

1 Kings 19:9-12

Psalm 37:7

Psalm 63:2-4

Matthew 6:5-8

John 7:37-44

2 Corinthians 4:18

 

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Valued by God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Valued by God | God’s love for us is unlike any other. As covered in the previous section, God created us and so knows us and loves us intimately. Now consider he does so knowing he will always be giving to us far more than we could ever begin to repay, far more than we will even be able to comprehend | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #ValuedbyGodValued by God

God’s love for us is unlike any other. As covered in the previous section, God created us and so knows us and loves us intimately. Now consider he does so knowing he will always be giving to us far more than we could ever begin to repay, far more than we will even be able to comprehend. He is not just a good father. He is our heavenly Father. He is God and adopts us as his own. This means he chooses us freely, knowing everything about us, good, bad, and ugly.

At times, we experience circumstantial relationships, like the interaction with a clerk in a store or wait staff in a restaurant. Both parties know the primary purpose of the encounter is an exchange of goods or services. Such times can be transformed into healing and evangelistic encounters when we take the time to see and acknowledge the human being before us truly. We may also experience personal relationships where the message is conveyed that the other is mostly interested in what we can provide them, for example, if someone relates to us for our looks, money, status, or because they want us to do something for them. When interpersonal relationships take on a transactional dimension, it can be quite painful. It can leave us feeling treated like an object or as a means to an end. This is the absolute opposite of God and how he relates to us. Rather than giving to us for what he can receive from us, he gives to us, desiring our capacity for him to increase so we may receive more and more.

Jesus, who is total fullness, emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) in order to become one of us.  He desired to redeem each of us by his self-sacrificing love, already knowing how we would blow it.  Not only that, but he chooses to seek us out when we are lost. He is the good shepherd and leaves the ninety-nine to find us, as we hear in the Gospel parable (Matthew 18:12-14). His love for us is not transactional or because he needs something from us. He cherishes us as surely as a shepherd would treasure a lost sheep once he found it.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Recall a time you felt valued for who you are and not for what you could give or do. What stands out about it to you?
  2. What image of Jesus helps you to conceptualize his unconditional love for you?
  3. What makes it difficult for you to fully accept the fact that God values you for who you are?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, you are the Good Shepherd who seeks us out when we are lost. You put us on your shoulders, delighted to bring us home. We thank you for your faithful love for us, which far exceeds anything we could ask or imagine. Please heal us from the lies we have believed that we are not valuable for ourselves, but only for our performance, looks, or what others can get from us. We ask you for the grace to experience your delight in us and that you always watch for us just as the prodigal son’s father watched for him, and ran out to him “while he was still a long way off” (Luke 15:20). Thank you for the immensity of your tender love for me personally. Please give me the grace to accept this love ever more deeply. Amen.

Action Step

Recall an image from scripture that helps you see God’s value for who you are (the creation account, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, etc.). Post a reminder of this somewhere you will encounter it throughout the day (on your phone, in your car, on the bathroom mirror, etc.). Allow this image to be a reminder that your value is inherent because of who God is and who he made you to be.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Ask God to help you identify any blocks within you that might prevent you from believing and experiencing the way God cherishes who you are. Ask him what he wants you to know about that and then note what he puts on your heart.

Scriptures for Meditation

Isaiah 43:4

Matthew 6:25-34

Luke 12:6-7

John 3:16

Romans 8:28

Titus 3:4-7

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Known by God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Known by God | As we begin to take a look at our connection to the Lord, we start with the fact that he deeply and personally knows us. Ideally, we would have had a sense of being known (seen and heard as an individual who is very good) by our parents and caregivers as children | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #KnownbyGod #part4Known by God

As we begin to take a look at our connection to the Lord, we start with the fact that he deeply and personally knows us. Ideally, we would have had a sense of being known (seen and heard as an individual who is very good) by our parents and caregivers as children. When that happens, it naturally creates a schema in our minds by which we are able to mature more smoothly and with a positive self-concept. The experience of being regarded as an individual who is seen and heard personally as very good, the way God sees us, becomes the basis for how we view ourselves.

For those of us who did not have such an experience as a child, it’s never too late. The Lord knows each of us in a deeply intimate way and that’s a good thing! He sees each one of us with all the beauty he deposited within us.  We each delight his heart in a very special way no one else does or ever can. You are made to reflect an aspect of his magnificence in a way no one ever has or ever will. You are not a number to him. Scripture tells us he has even counted the hairs of our head. He is the most loving father there ever could be.  He has called us to be his children. With him as father, it’s never too late to have a great childhood.

Oftentimes, we hear or read about having a personal relationship with the Lord. Do we consider he knows us each, personally? That is the starting place. He is the one who has initiated our relationship. Imagine how a good parent delights in their newborn or toddler. Such joy is not in what the child can do for them, but simply for whom the child is. God delights in each of us the same way. He sees in us unique characteristics of his own design. His father’s heart is filled with love at the sight of each of us.

This is the heart of God. This is the well from which he wants us to draw living waters. The well of his heart is infinite, superabundant and will never run dry. There is always a deeper intimacy he has for each of us and for which he longs. Intimacy with him is the source of deepest fulfillment. He longs for us to experience being known by him. He desires to give us this gift, his love, himself. Learning to draw this living water of his love is a process. Drinking these life-giving waters takes time in prayer and conscious effort. When so much noise clamors around us, it is necessary to remind ourselves of the presence of God so we can be lifted above the noise.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Is there a way or a place you experience God’s love as personal?
  2. At what times is it particularly challenging to remember the Lord is with you?
  3. Is it difficult for you to believe God sees you as an individual? Why?
  4. What is something that draws you into deeper intimacy with God?

Prayer

Pray Psalm 139.

Action Step

Find a way to remind yourself throughout the day of the Lord’s presence with you.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Consider how you did or did not feel known as an individual who was very good when you were a child. Invite the Lord into whatever memories come and ask him what he wants you to know. Note what comes to mind.

Scriptures for Meditation

Jeremiah 1:5

Nahum 1:7

Psalm 139

John 10:14

John 10:27

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Chosen for Divine Intimacy

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Chosen for Divine Intimacy | Chosen for Divine Intimacy. God chose each of us individually out of all the possibilities of people to create, redeem, sanctify, and call into a relationship with himself for all eternity. I remember hearing that there is a one in 400 quadrillion chance for each one of us to be created | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #ConnectiontoGod #ChosenforDivineIntimacy #FEARLESSChapter3 #ChosenforDivineIntimacyFEARLESSChapter3Chosen for Divine Intimacy

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you… – John 15:16

FEARLESS Chapter 3 Chosen for Divine Intimacy. God chose each of us individually out of all the possibilities of people to create, redeem, sanctify, and call into a relationship with himself for all eternity. I remember hearing that there is a one in 400 quadrillion chance for each one of us to be created. Yet, it wasn’t by chance but by the intentional choice of the Lord of all creation. Not only did he choose for us to exist, but to exist within him, and he desires to permeate us with his presence completely. Such an intimate relationship can only be hinted at by the intimacy of marriage.

We are conceived first and foremost in the Holy Trinity and are members of the Holy Family with Jesus as our brother. Anyone who truly knew and understood this would most certainly choose him, and yet he tells us it was rather he who chose us. Our task is to internalize the fact that we are chosen, and the life that results is a life of ever-deepening gratitude and joy.

He longs for us, and with him is where we belong. He is the Prince of Peace, and we are made for Him.  As we accept his choice of us and live ever more fully and deeply as members of his family, we experience his reign over us and are permeated by and become instruments of his peace, bringing others more fully into their citizenship in his Kingdom.

This is the starting point, the foundation. He gave it all, even his life and his Holy Spirit, to show us that he will go to any lengths and do all that is necessary to be with us always and forever. Everything else hinges on this foundation, that we were personally selected by he who is all-good, out of his infinite love, that we might be transformed by love and live in union with him.

Every other hope for being chosen pales in comparison to the belonging we have had from the moment of conception. Internalizing and responding to this fact is to be the bottom line of our relationship with him.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What do you think when you consider the fact that you don’t have to try to be chosen but that you are already chosen by God?
  2. How do you feel knowing that bringing the possibility of you to reality was a distinct and intentional choice of God?
  3. Does knowing this change how you see yourself?  God?  Others? Life?   If so, how?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Creator of all things and my Creator thank you for choosing to bring me into existence to share your life and love for all eternity.  Please give me the grace never to forget that fact about myself and to relate to others in a way that acknowledges that same dignity.  Amen.

Action Step

Put a note on your bathroom mirror to remind you that God has selected you.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Consider what would be different if you lived completely out of the truth that you are God’s choice, and jot down what comes to you.

Scriptures for Meditation

Isaiah 43:1

John 15:16

Romans 8:29-30

Ephesians 1:3-4

Connection to God

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Connection to God | FEARLESS Chapter 2 Connection to God. Jesus is the bread of life.  He is the food for which we are made. What does food do? It nourishes us, gives us energy. Good food makes us healthy, bad food makes us sick, poisoned food can even kill us, but without food we would die a painful death. Fundamentally, food satisfies us. We eat so that we can live | #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #ConnectiontoGod #FEARLESSChapter2 #ConnectiontoGodFEARLESSChapter2Connection to God

FEARLESS Chapter 2 Connection to God. Jesus is the bread of life.  He is the food for which we are made. What does food do? It nourishes us, gives us energy. Good food makes us healthy, bad food makes us sick, poisoned food can even kill us, but without food we would die a painful death. Fundamentally, food satisfies us. We eat so that we can live.

Communion – deep, personal, intimate connection with God – is essential to being healthy and vivacious rather than sick, malnourished, and dying. If our connection to God is only in physical reception of the Eucharist and not in spiritual intimacy, then we are missing out on that for which our soul is ultimately yearning and seeking. He has so much more to offer us than for us to just go through the motions of receiving him. He longs for us to unite ourselves to him fully in every aspect of our person. He wants every facet of us to be nourished and healthy.

We are made for healthy food, but if we do not have access to it, we are still driven to eat. Eventually, we’ll settle for chips, a candy bar, or a soda because our hunger demands to be fed. If we don’t make planful and intentional choices, we will run the risk of making impulsive ones. It is the same way with being fed spiritually, emotionally and relationally. We are made for God who is infinite. Only he can fully satisfy our hunger. If we aren’t feeding on him in all of these ways, who or what are we consuming? Whatever or whomever it is, it won’t fill us because it isn’t able to, no matter how hard we or they try.

If we treat the spiritual life – our communion with God – as dessert or a side dish, nothing will be smooth, peaceful, or fulfilling for very long. Ultimately, we’ll be making unrealistic demands of our very nature as we seek to be patient, understanding and committed to others. We have to be fed first. We cannot give what we don’t have. To try to do so is like jumping off a building and expecting to fly. If we are hoping to be fed by others, we are setting ourselves, and them, up for an impossible task that is bound to end in stagnation, dependence, resentment, or destruction.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. In what way(s) do you feel like you’re running on empty – emotionally, spiritually or relationally malnourished?
  2. In what way(s) do you find yourself trying to be fed elsewhere? How is that working out?
  3. In what new way(s) can you allow the Lord to feed you?

Prayer

Lord, we are made for you and you generously empty your infinite self for us at every moment. Please bring us to deeper awareness of our need for you and your desire to be our fulfillment. We thank you for longing to answer this prayer beyond our wildest hopes. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Action Step

Before you check your phone in the morning or get out of bed, ask the Lord to fill you with himself and spend a couple of minutes receiving his love before your feet even hit the floor.

Journaling/Further Reflection

Ask the Lord to show you in what area(s) you are running without his nourishment and how he wants to be your sustenance so you can start to live your life from a place of fulfillment. Note what he puts on your heart.

Scriptures for Meditation

Luke 18:1

John 14:6

John 15:5-7

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Jude 1:21

 

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Connection Overview

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Connection Overview | FEARLESS: Chapter 1 Connection Overview. What is so important about connection and why pair it together with the concept of holiness? We don’t have to look far to see how God regards community. He models it for us in the Holy Trinity | #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearless #ConnectionOverviewConnection Overview

FEARLESS: Chapter 1 Connection Overview. What is so important about connection and why pair it together with the concept of holiness? We don’t have to look far to see how God regards community. He models it for us in the Holy Trinity. We see their love, unity and order in relationship to each other. Each knows, values and respects the others. There is diversity and perfect unity. When God the Father sent his Son into the world, Jesus did only what he saw the Father do (John 5:19).  After his Ascension Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, to bring us into the family of God as brothers and sisters; sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. The Spirit gives us the power to live the life of God. He animates us to make God visible, to incarnate God in our lives.

So much does God desire to be connected to us and for us to be connected to each other, that he condescends to humble himself so far as to transform bread and wine into his body and blood. He remains with us in all the tabernacles of the world, even enduring coldness and indifference, to be with us always so we might know we are never alone. Charity and unity are intimately tied to the Eucharist.  His love for us feeds our hunger for union with him.  The more we consciously and intentionally relate to ourselves and each other with such compassion, the more we draw nearer to him and each other.

In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), when the older brother complains about the younger son’s return, he tries to disassociate himself from his overindulgent brother. The father sought to reconcile the older son to himself, and to bring him wholeness in his relationship with his brother.

It is very important to the Lord that we have communion with him and with each other. God is not just the father of each of us; he is our father. We are siblings. ‘Father’ is a title that not only defines our relationship to him, but also to each other. He is the hub and we are the spokes on the wheel. As we draw closer to him, we draw closer to one another. He desires to draw us all to himself and to each other.

Being united is essential to the nature of the Most Blessed Trinity. It is who they are. It is not an activity. That is to say, their unity is about being, not about doing. Because it is who they are, it is how they relate. It is not a tactic or strategic approach. There is no ulterior motive. Relating in healthy connection to ourselves and others is both holy and fosters wholeness. It is imitation of God.  He set before us life and death and longs for us to choose life, because such things draw us more deeply into the fullness of how he made us to be and the joy of the life he has for us. The Greek word teleios means both wholeness and holiness. Living in healthy, loving, respectful connection calls us to growth on human and spiritual levels. It helps us to make our love of God manifest in our own lives and to those around us.

It stands to reason we are the most fulfilled and at peace when life is lived the way God intended. Science reveals to us that God wired into our physical being a need for social connection. In his TED Talk about social connection3, neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman, Ph. D., tells us that connection to each other even impacts our physical health on a day-to-day basis.

The final aspect of connection is personal integration, connection to self. It’s not something we talk about much, but it is something impacting all of us constantly. Our connection to ourselves is this mode. If we are patient, kind, and understanding toward ourselves, it is going to be much easier for us to relate to our neighbor in the same way. Likewise, if we believe we are lovable, it will be much easier for us to believe God loves us. In fact, I’ve seen time and again that most of us don’t sin because of faulty theology, but a very erroneous ‘me-ology’. That is, our lack of acceptance of ourselves and our belief that we are not worthy of the Lord’s intense, intimate, personal passionate desire for each one of us is what leaves us worshipping all sorts of other gods, in an attempt to medicate our pain, loneliness, and emptiness. We must begin to shift how we see ourselves in order to begin to believe the truth of how God sees us. When we consciously and intentionally stand under the truth of how God sees us, we begin to more fully understand the depth of his passion and compassion for us. Only this will truly satisfy the longing of our hearts.

All three of these dimensions of connection – connection to God, self, and others – are crucial for wholeness and holiness in our lives, much like the legs of a tripod provide balance. Connection to God is the perfection of intimacy and provides us with the essential basis for being truly known and accepted. In this way, we have a firm foundation for self-knowledge and self-acceptance. Then, in truly loving ourselves, we can best be conduits of his love to others. It makes no sense to be harsh and demanding with ourselves for most of our waking hours and then expect the comparatively small amount of time spent in listening to God’s voice to renew our minds.

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

 

FEARLESS

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

FEARLESS | FEARLESS Preface & Intro. Many years ago, I noticed that healthy connections to God, self, and others are the foundation of peace and fulfillment in life. Without these connections, we perpetuate lies in our minds that become the basis for our self-talk and how we relate to others | #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #FEARLESS #fearlessFEARLESS

Preface

FEARLESS Preface & Intro. Many years ago, I noticed that healthy connections to God, self, and others are the foundation of peace and fulfillment in life. Without these connections, we perpetuate lies in our minds that become the basis for our self-talk and how we relate to others. These lies chip away at our ability to perceive and receive the truth of God’s love for us and leave us feeling like he is far away. With a faith rendered full of holes, we are anxiety-ridden and depressed; we find ourselves perpetuating a cycle of disconnection within ourselves and with those around us.  The remedy is simple. Four scripture-based essentials (respect for boundaries, inherent value as God’s children, recognition of the goodness with which he made us, and openness) are all that is necessary for healthy relating to God, self, and others.  These essentials lead to the abundant life Jesus came to give us. This revelation led me to write this book. I encourage you to pray through it and allow the Lord to minister the truth of his love to you.

Introduction

I’m writing this in the time of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. We are being bombarded daily with dire forecasts about the connectedness of humanity.  If we carry the virus, we are told we risk making others sick. Social media is plastered with posts and memes that speak of people longing to once again relate closely. Post after post gives people tips on how to cope with the loss of social contact.  We long for connection. The pandemic of disconnection is far more deadly and far less recognized in our world than any virus.

As a licensed professional clinical counselor and trauma therapist, I’ve practiced intensive trauma therapy with clients of all ages for the past 14+ years. Time and again, I’ve witnessed that the deepest and most damaging human experiences come from fractures in connection.   These fractures leave people isolated, their ability to relate to themselves and others, broken. I’ve been blessed to practice and further develop a highly effective method of treatment. The approach treats the traumas first.   After the trauma is healed, the need for healthy connection invariably comes to the forefront, but knowing how to build these connections is not always a given.  I have watched people expend great fear-based energy trying to control rather than to truly connect, exacerbating their own suffering and the suffering of those around them.

For more than a decade of providing therapy, the most profoundly positive and healing experiences people have shared with me are times they felt connected to God, to others, or to themselves. Over and over again regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background, cognitive level, or any other factor, connection, true, authentic, healthy connection, is the antithesis of trauma. Connection is what we are made for and the climate in which we all flourish.

Real communion, I came to understand, is consistently fostered by boundaries, recognition of value and acceptance, and being seen and heard as a unique and precious individual. These form the core of connection.  They flow throughout sacred scripture and synergistically provide the sense of safety necessary for vulnerability and trust. When these ways of being are operating, people are truly able to perceive and receive each other in love, peace, and joy. These same factors are necessary for a healthy relationship to self and to the Lord, as well. When we know the four elements of healthy connection and why and how they fit and work together, we are able to build on solid ground and to navigate compassionately when relationships become challenging.  Without this knowledge, we can easily lose peace and focus.

Accepting the intimacy of the Blessed Trinity residing in us, we start from a place of fullness with our connection needs met to overflowing.  We are perfectly known, valued, and protected by our all-loving, omnipotent God. His perfect love dispels and replaces our fear. (1 John 4:18) It is essential, and commonly most difficult, for us to accept and imitate such love as we relate to ourselves. The healthier our self-talk and integration of his love, the safer we feel, the less others are viewed as threat or competition, and the more his love flows through us to others. That unshakeable assurance we have in God’s love, transforms our hearts and minds. Such fearlessness flows outward into every aspect of our lives. It is the superabundance of God’s infinite compassion for us that is the truest way to find both sanity and sanctity. This is that same Deep Well from which the saints drank. He is no less available to us when we make ourselves available to him. Much of the focus of therapy is often about identifying lies we believe about ourselves which stem from painful experiences. While this can be a crucial step to healing from the past, it’s imperative for us to adopt a new way of relating for the future. We must begin to relate to ourselves, God, and others the way the Lord does for the truth of his love to transform our minds and lead us into his abundant life.

Jesus’ identity was firmly rooted in being the beloved Son of the Father (Connection to God). He thoroughly internalized that identity (Connection to Self) and he related to others in a way that allowed the love of his Father to flow through himself to them in deep compassion (Connection to Others).  Connection to God, to self, and to others is the ever-deepening work of a lifetime. It is not bad news that we haven’t arrived, but rather something to embrace. It’s not that we aren’t good enough or are still broken if we have room for formation in these areas. Rather, it’s the profound reality that God is infinite and being permeated by his all-loving presence is a process. There is always more of him – more love, more peace, more joy. This is really good news!

As I dug into writing this book and was looking for scriptures for each section, scales fell from my eyes. I had previously seen the four connection principles of boundaries, valued, being known, and openness as a ubiquitous pattern, and mentally and spiritually sound. What struck me was that all of scripture is bursting with these concepts, too. I called a friend and told her my find.  Without missing a beat she responded, “That makes sense.  Scripture is all relationship”.  My jaw dropped. That’s it! These connection principles are how the Lord relates to us and how he teaches us to relate, as well. Is it any wonder that they lead to wholeness and freedom?

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

Vocations and Integration

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Vocations and Integration | Vocations and Integration with Fr. Jonathan McElhone, TOR. Margaret:  Do/how do you see a lack of human and spiritual integration in people today | #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #TheStruggleisReal! #InterconnectedPsychology&Spirituality #InterconnectedPsychologyandSpirituality #VocationsandIntegrationVocations and Integration

Vocations and Integration with Fr. Jonathan McElhone, TOR.

Margaret:  Do/how do you see a lack of human and spiritual integration in people today?

Fr. Jonathan McElhone, TOR:  People are afraid to make mistakes. At times, I’ve seen people confuse their vocation with their salvation. Vocation is tied to our mission, our path toward holiness. Salvation is connected to how I receive God’s love and mercy in my life. Confusing these leads to the belief that God will be disappointed with me if I choose the wrong vocation.

Margaret:  How do you see a lack of human and spiritual integration in people today?

Fr. Jonathan:  IDENTITY – so often, people are concerned with what others think of them and their identity, and in the midst of the cancel culture, they are afraid of being rejected.  This often leads them to hide their authentic spirituality.  With the instant news/social posts of videos, snippets, and soundbites, which often attack the dignity of the human person, published from an ‘agenda,’ people become afraid to even speak the truth or speak honestly.

At times, people over-spiritualize and romanticize to an extreme what they think they need to do to ‘please’ God. For example, St. Francis of Assisi had severe fasts, which some speculated led to his early death.  Yes, self-denial is necessary in the spiritual life, but doing so should still respect the dignity of the human person.

Margaret:  Is human and spiritual integration necessary, especially for the living out of one’s vocation?  Especially in religious communities?

Fr. Jonathan:  YES!  My own experience as a Franciscan, where fraternal life holds an important place, I’ve witnessed a direct connection between my spiritual life and how I am able to embrace and live out my Franciscan vocation and vise versa.  When I’m responding well to the graces of God’s love (close in prayer, not always feelings), it is so much easier to accept my identity as a child of God, offering me a perspective on how I see others and situations. It is easier to live in the truth of the light of Jesus.   If I find myself far from the Lord (struggling with sin), then often I’ve witnessed my response to others and even my own self-narrative becomes much less life giving.

Margaret:  What are some of the qualities/aspects of someone’s life you look for in potential candidates?

Fr. Jonathan:  A person of prayer, actively seeking holiness and a life conformed to Christ Jesus and has a generous heart. I look for someone who is mature, well integrated, who doesn’t make discernment about emotions, or fantasies.  Do they have a clear understanding of their own identity as a child of God? Are they aware of their own strength and weaknesses, and willing to address and work on those weaknesses (TOR charism of ongoing conversion).  Are they open to formation, instruction and correction? Do they seem like a person who could embrace and live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience?  Do they get along well with a wide diversity of people?  Do they really want to serve the Lord (or are they looking for a free ride)?  Are they educatable (MA degrees).  Do they have important life skills and experiences (laundry, cooking, holding a real job, finances, etc.)

Margaret:  Any recommendations (human and/or spiritual) for young people to be prepared to live out a religious vocation?

Fr. Jonathan:  Grow deeper in prayer daily, participate in the sacraments regularly (more than once a week).  Get to know yourself, strengths, weaknesses, talents, gifts à live out of these.

Stop only thinking about discernment and actually do something: talk to a priest or religious, visit a community, get involved in ministry, go on a mission trip, etc. Action gives the material for the heart to discern with. Both the heart and the mind are required for healthy discernment. Evaluate your heart after an action and look for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially peace and joy.

Margaret:  How can interested men contact you regarding discerning a vocation to the Franciscan TOR Friars of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus?

Fr. Jonathan:  The best way… website: Franciscanstor.org and click the tab “Vocations contact” where they can submit contact info and I’ll be sure to reach out to them quickly.

Teaching Self-Talk to Children

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Teaching Self-Talk to Children | Teaching Self-Talk to Children. Positive self-talk is one of the most important interior skills a person can have.  Unfortunately, it rarely, if ever, gets taught.  Since we listen to ourselves far more than we listen to anyone else, it’s an essential skill to have | #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #TheStruggleisReal! #InterconnectedPsychology&Spirituality #InterconnectedPsychologyandSpirituality #TeachingSelf-TalktoChildrenTeaching Self-Talk to Children

Teaching Self-Talk to Children. Positive self-talk is one of the most important interior skills a person can have.  Unfortunately, it rarely, if ever, gets taught.  Since we listen to ourselves far more than we listen to anyone else, it’s an essential skill to have.  When we have positive self-talk, almost any situation can be handled with confidence and peace.  When we lack it, we can quickly become dependent on others for affirmation and validation.  At best, that positions a child to be a follower in the crowd and, at worst, leaves a child vulnerable to teasing and bullying, which can be quite destructive and traumatizing.

If you haven’t already, you might want to listen to my podcasts, How to Talk to Yourself and How to Talk to Mean Voices, because learning to talk to yourself in a healthy way will help you teach the same to your child.  The most effective self-talk isn’t just talking to yourself but from your true/wise self.  That means speaking from a calm, confident, and compassionate place to whatever part of us struggles.

Here are a few principles to teach children for positive self-talk:

  • Emotions are information.
  • Emotions are only one source of information.
  • We have emotions. We aren’t emotions.
  • The true/wise self can see the information the emotional part is struggling with and can also present other information.
  • Personify the emotions for the sake of being able to treat them compassionately.

The autonomy, self-efficacy, emotional regulation, and confidence that can come from practicing positive self-talk is hard to overstate.  The first young child I used this with was my nephew when he was three years old and by it, he resolved what had become a dramatic situation quite quickly and peacefully.  I was astounded.  Listen to the podcast to hear the story.  I had a young mother tell me she had similar results with her five-year-old daughter.  I think the only reason it might sound complicated to us as adults is because we may have had years of believing we really are the emotions we’re experiencing, relying on others to soothe us, or even believing that we’re mentally unstable if we talk to ourselves.

Teach your child to talk to himself as Jesus would talk to him and you won’t regret it and he won’t either.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Interconnected Psychology & Spirituality

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Interconnected Psychology & Spirituality | Have you ever wondered if psychology and spirituality are interconnected?  I hope so!  Sadly, some people actually think that they are at odds with each other.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Lord made us body, mind, and spirit | #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #TheStruggleisReal!  #InterconnectedPsychology&Spirituality #InterconnectedPsychologyandSpiritualityInterconnected Psychology & Spirituality

Have you ever wondered if psychology and spirituality are interconnected?  I hope so!  Sadly, some people actually think that they are at odds with each other.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The Lord made us body, mind, and spirit.  He made us as a whole person.  We are the ones who separate these fields from each other.  That happens in academia because each one of those areas – the physical, emotional, and spiritual – have so much content to learn and understand.  It can take a lifetime of education to specialize in one.  Then, the areas we study tend to become the areas in which we work, and our focus can get even more narrow and specialized.

I’m grateful that my undergraduate degree is in Theology because when I later studied for my master’s degree in counseling, I had a spiritually sound understanding of the human person.  It provided me with a foundation I simply wouldn’t have had if I had studied from only a psychological perspective.  I do believe that Jesus is the answer to whatever real question we have and is the solution to all human suffering.  Interestingly, my study of counseling, my post graduate study of trauma, and working for so many years specializing in deep human suffering has only increased that belief and not in an abstract, but quite specific ways.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn things about the person, human behavior, human dynamics, human suffering, and healing that I cannot imagine not knowing.  This knowledge has benefited me on my personal journey, and it’s become my passion to be able to share it with others.

There’s a priest who has referred numerous clients to me over the years who once told me that he prays for me and my ministry everyday at the altar right after he prays for his own family.  He said that by how people have benefited spiritually from addressing their emotional woundedness, he has come to understand that what I do and what priests do have a great deal to do with each other.  In other words, he was able to see how inextricably interwoven psychology and spirituality are and that removing the blocks of dysfunction and pain facilitate growth in the spiritual life.  Doesn’t that make sense since the spiritual life is the most important relationship we will ever have?

Over the past year I’ve been providing a human and spiritual integration workshop to religious communities, deacons, parishes, dioceses, and seminaries.  I always hear the same type of feedback that priest shared with me.  Because I’ve had so many requests from individuals wanting to access this workshop, I’m now making it available online.  One is coming up very soon, November 6-9 for a couple of hours each evening. There are additional online workshops scheduled after the new year and other in-person workshops in the process of being scheduled.  If you’d like to know when these take place, sign up to receive emails from Sacred Heart Healing Ministries at sacredhearthealingministries.com.  I’d love to have you join us!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

How to Talk to Mean Voices

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

How to Talk to Mean Voices | In the last episode, we discussed the importance of compassionate self-talk.  So, what do we do with that pesky self-commentary that can be mean or discouraging?  Should I ignore it and think happy thoughts? | #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #TheStruggleisReal! #HowtoTalktoMeanVoicesHow to Talk to Mean Voices

In the last episode, we discussed the importance of compassionate self-talk.  So, what do we do with that pesky self-commentary that can be mean or discouraging?  Should I ignore it and think happy thoughts?  NO!  That voice will fester like a splinter, getting more painful.  Ignoring it won’t solve things and may exacerbate the situation.

Have you ever been around a toddler and seen how they are when they are ignored?  They get louder.  They can be quite resolute in their dedication to being heard.  It’s amazing, though it can be annoying to witness such motivation and determination.  Frequently, the need they’re trying to express can be simple and when they know they’ve been heard compassionately, it moves toward the situation being resolved.  They may not necessarily like not getting their way, but when they know they’re safe, heard, and presented with an alternate plan, they can begin to align themselves with it.  Contrast that with when they are ignored and the unnecessary intensity and drama that can take place.  Ultimately, a peaceful resolution still requires them to be acknowledged and addressed compassionately.

For this reason, when we have a negative commentary about ourselves going on in our minds, the best course of action is, yet again, compassion!  That’s right.  Stay consistently in that compassionate mode if the thought is that I did something stupid or that it was ridiculous for me to forget something; that is just an emotion I am experiencing.  There is still the ‘I’ of me that can respond to that emotion compassionately.  Why would I do such a thing?  Well, because the Lord tells me to love myself.  Also, that emotion is coming out of a misguided desire to help me do better in the future.  Being put down, beat up, and demoralized by myself won’t accomplish that desire any more than a loud and angry coach will motivate a little league baseball team to want to keep playing their best.

When those self-destructive emotions go through my mind, I can speak to that part to thank it for working so hard and acknowledging that it is trying to be helpful.  Then, I can let it know that I – the compassionate me – am taking care of the situation.  I can ask it if it would be willing to let me handle things with compassion and see how it goes.  You may be surprised how willing it is to try it in a new and loving way.

Denial is never a good plan.  Instead, remain compassionate.  Love casts out fear way better than intimidation does, and everyone does better when they are loved.

May the Lord give you His peace that surpasses all understanding!

Margaret

 

 

 

How to Talk to Yourself

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

How to Talk to Yourself. When most of us hear about communication workshops and the like, we immediately think of how to relate to others peacefully and effectively.  Would you believe that is actually the end point of communication, not the beginning? #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #HowtoTalktoYourselfHow to Talk to Yourself

How to Talk to Yourself. When most of us hear about communication workshops and the like, we immediately think of how to relate to others peacefully and effectively.  Would you believe that is actually the end point of communication, not the beginning?  Two critical steps come before speaking with others.  Without these two parts of the foundation, relating to others will only be so effective for so long.  These two essential ingredients are listening to the Lord and talking to ourselves with the same compassion He has toward us.

God is love and is all-good.  He loves us with a tenderness that is beyond our ability to fathom.  Yet, all too often, we agree with this truth intellectually but completely disregard it in practical application.  Remember that in the Scriptures, Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  That means that loving ourselves is key.  Yet, to have any true and healthy idea of what love is, we have to look to Jesus, who is the image of the Invisible God.  I’m called to imitate Him in His compassion, patience, and understanding, even as I relate to myself.

Sadly, there was a time many, many years ago when spiritual writers would use the term ‘self-love’ to mean selfishness.  That was really unfortunate because there is a leftover attitude that it makes sense for Jesus to love me, but then I should go beat myself up in my thoughts and deeds toward myself.  Then, we expect to be able to love our neighbor well because somehow that is holier than being loving toward me.  It simply doesn’t work or requires an extraordinary amount of effort to make the constant mental shift from a negative, condemning voice that beats me up if I forget something but is patient with another person if they forget something or struggles in some way.

To believe that God loves me, I have to be living as though I love me.  Love doesn’t mean entertaining my every whim or desire.  We know the Lord doesn’t relate to us in that way, either.   It does mean that I can’t make a perfect performance, some sort of golden calf that I have to be a slave to to earn love.  If I do relate to myself in that way, the chances are I’ll relate to others the same way and may even begin to believe that is what God’s love is like.  That could not be farther from the truth.  His love is unearned and unchanging.  The power and strength of being loved give us the freedom and ability to hit the mark a little closer each time.

So, be compassionate when you’re going about your day and commenting to yourself on what you’ve done or how you’ve done it.  As you examine your conscience at the end of the day, don’t forget to affirm yourself for the effort you showed and how you responded to the Lord’s grace.  That isn’t pride; that is being loved to you as the Lord commands you.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

The Struggle is Real!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

The Struggle is Real! | I grew up in the Deep South and learned to drive a stick shift when I was eight years old; for those under 50, some cars had manual transmissions, meaning that the driver had to change the gears.  In most cars nowadays, that happens automatically | #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #TheStruggleisReal!The Struggle is Real!

I grew up in the Deep South and learned to drive a stick shift when I was eight years old; for those under 50, some cars had manual transmissions, meaning that the driver had to change the gears.  In most cars nowadays, that happens automatically.  It was on old, unmarked dirt roads.  Driving underage and without a license isn’t something for which I’m advocating, but it was a great experience.  I loved everything about it.  Learning a new skill was fun, but in particular, there was something about the challenge itself that was exciting.

Fast forward to my experience of trying to teach adults to drive sticks.  It’s been surprisingly different.  Any adult I’ve ever taught has been apprehensive and has frozen when they stalled out.  Stalling out is common when learning to drive a stick.  The car doesn’t explode.  You don’t get ejected from the driver’s seat.  Aliens don’t take you to another planet.  You simply put the car in neutral and start it back up.  I began paying attention to a common difference in how we handle challenges as kids and how we do as adults.  It seems as though, as adults, we tend to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves that we should already know and be proficient at whatever the skill or knowledge is.  Many of us learning new things significantly trail off or stop completely when we age.

I realized I’d been doing the same thing a few weeks ago.  I lift weights and consistently avoid single-leg exercises because my balance isn’t great.  I couldn’t do those exercises without a struggle, and so I realized I wasn’t doing them at all.  We tend not to like doing or even attempting things we haven’t mastered.  The problem is that growth in virtue and breaking patterns of sin can require struggle.  If we avoid struggle in the physical realm, why would it be any different in the spiritual dimension?  I know the same applies to mental challenges.  Compare the number of kids who learn musical instruments or languages to the number of adults who do.  It can be a little more challenging since our brains prune parts we aren’t using.  At the same time, the brain is highly adaptive.

So, I started doing the single leg exercises, and boy, do I ride the struggle bus on these.  No doubt.  I’m doing them in front of others, too.  However, after embracing the struggle as a spiritual and physical exercise, I’ve come to – dare I say it! – enjoy them!!!  I can only do micromovements – approximations of the exercise I’m attempting.  I can already tell it’s creating some muscle memory, though, and I can feel in my legs that muscles are being worked in a way I hadn’t been able to tax them before.

To sum it up, the process of struggling can have many benefits.

  1. Challenges us to be non-critical/non-judgmental.
  2. Tests our humility.
  3. Gives us an experience of gains that can be made on the way to mastery and a value for the growth process.
  4. We can make friends with the idea of struggle. The carry-over can lead to struggling toward growth in charity, patience, discipline, and many other spiritual fruits.

If you feel like the struggle is real, embrace it!  Be compassionate with yourself, and enjoy the process!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Having a Ministry Mindset

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

A Ministry Mindset | Having a Ministry Mindset. In Genesis, God put a man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it.  That was not a result of the fall of man.  It was laboring that resulted from man’s transgression.  God worked for 6 days as He created for six days, contrasting with Him resting on the seventh day | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #AMinistryMindsetA Ministry Mindset

Having a Ministry Mindset. In Genesis, God put a man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it.  That was not a result of the fall of man.  It was laboring that resulted from man’s transgression.  God worked for 6 days as He created for six days, contrasting with Him resting on the seventh day.  Work is not a bad, but a beautiful thing in and of itself.  It can even be a glorious thing when we do it in collaboration with the Lord.  Along this same line is the motto of the Benedictines, “ora et labor,” that is, “prayer and work.”  Both are seen as essential and redemptive.

The fact of our lives is that most of us must work either for ourselves or someone else.  This is not to be a contrast but an extension or an expression of our life of faith. We are God’s hands and feet in this world, and it is through us that He seeks to build up the Kingdom at hand.  It is through us that He seeks to restore the Body of Christ.  We are sent out to do this as the apostles and disciples were.

Too often, as laity, we can look to clergy and religious to do that while we go to our jobs.  That’s not how it’s meant to be.  While they may have a more specifically religious flavor to their mission, our work is supposed to be every bit as much of a ministry, but ministry in the marketplace, perhaps.

Some factors that distinguish work from ministry:

  • Seeing the Lord as the ultimate Master for whom we work.
  • Entering our work with the focus and goal of witnessing to the love of God.
  • Offering the sacrifices required of us as acts of love and praise to the Lord.
  • Courageously and gratefully embracing whatever is required of us in our jobs as God’s provision for our personal growth.

Perhaps the most fundamental difference in a work and ministry mindset might be starting from a place of love rather than fear.  When we start from being deeply, passionately loved by the Lord and loving ourselves as He loves us, we go out into the world carried by the waves of His love, which flow through us to others.  If, however, we start from a mindset of fearing not being able to pay the bills or fearing our lack of inherent value, we look for what we can get through a job rather than what we can give.

This day, may the Lord sear into the depths of your soul the knowledge of His infinite and never-failing love for you.  In that strength, may you minister to His people in whatever task you do, and may the Lord give you His peace.

Margaret

 

Does Anyone Get It?

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Does Anyone Get It | I want to share with you a devotion that I didn’t come to easily.  Because of my own relationship with my mother, I didn’t want a mother.  And I certainly didn’t want a sorrowful one!  Yet, that was this title of Our Blessed Mother I was forced to grapple with after having been in a religious community named for her | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #DoesAnyoneGetItDoes Anyone Get It?

Does Anyone Get It? I want to share with you a devotion that I didn’t come to easily.  Because of my own relationship with my mother, I didn’t want a mother.  And I certainly didn’t want a sorrowful one!  Yet, that was this title of Our Blessed Mother I was forced to grapple with after having been in a religious community named for her.  In digging into the history of that title, I found that title was first entered in the Roman Missal as Our Lady of Compassion.  That got my attention.  That was distinctly different from my broken experience of having a mother.  So, it opened the steel door I had slammed shut.

I didn’t want to come to this devotion for all the amazing promises associated with it.  That felt disingenuous, inauthentic, and self-serving.  However, I noticed that it was often a better fit for time constraints or where the bandwidth of my brain was.  I might not be able to pay attention to a whole Rosary, but seven Hail Marys and meditations seemed easier to focus on.

Over the years of praying this devotion, I’ve found my heart filled with compassion for her passion/suffering at the Lord’s Passion and the depths of her suffering convinced me of her compassion.  I began to trust her and see that no matter how alone, isolated, misunderstood, wavering in faith, and surrounded by darkness I might feel, she’s felt it all.  She knows the intricacies of emotional and mental suffering like no other human who was not divine.

When we are on our own crosses, we can have that assurance that someone DOES get it.  Not just anyone, but the most perfect and compassionate mother we could ever imagine.  How good the Lord is to know how much we would need that, how much we would need her.  So, we can trust that He gave her a maternal heart like none we could imagine.  Please pray these with me knowing she gets it.  You can trust her.  She is with you on your crosses in this life.

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

Interventions to Cope with Stress

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Interventions to Cope with Stress | At one time or another, we all experience stress in our lives.  Whether from anxiety and apprehension about the future or pain over hurtful things from the past, we can feel like our emotions hijack our brain and our ability to maintain that gift of the Lord’s peace | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #GreaterPeace #InterventionstoCopewithStress #CopewithStressInterventions to Cope with Stress

Interventions to Cope with Stress. At one time or another, we all experience stress in our lives.  Whether from anxiety and apprehension about the future or pain over hurtful things from the past, we can feel like our emotions hijack our brain and our ability to maintain that gift of the Lord’s peace. Despite knowing the truth and trusting in God’s goodness, we can feel nervousness in our bodies, making it difficult to concentrate, think straight, and focus.  Why is this, and what can we do about it?

This can happen because the emotional part of the brain can become stirred up and cause the brain’s right hemisphere to exert itself more than usual.  That’s because, with the right hemisphere of the brain, we experience all time like it’s now.  That means that the past hurts or future worries can vie for our ability to be in the present moment with the Lord, who is right here, knowing and loving us.

So, the first thing to do is remind yourself that what you are experiencing is biological.  Understanding that can help us realize that what we feel isn’t necessarily true just because it feels so big.  Those are emotions you are experiencing.  They are not who you are.  There is still a ‘you’ that knows God is in charge, is all good for you, and will use all things for your good.

The next thing to do would be to engage the left hemisphere of the brain or the five senses.  Below are some strategies to do just that.  Knowing these things can be like having a page out of the User’s Manual of your brain.  I’ll never understand why we don’t get taught these things in school.

Strategies:

  • Bilateral stimulation (anything that uses both sides of the body).

E.g., Swimming, biking, walking, jogging.

  • Anything that stimulates the five senses:

E.g., Smelling perfume or essential oils, sucking on a mint, chewing gum, holding an ice pack, the feel of Rosary beads, noting what one is seeing or hearing.

  • Math is almost exclusively a left-brain function. Make up some math problems and work them out without a calculator.
  • Puzzles such as jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, and logic games also employ the left brain.

These simple tools can give us a way to collaborate with the Lord’s gift of peace.

May He give His peace to you this day and always!

Greater Peace, Joy, & Freedom!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Greater Peace, Joy, and freedom! | Below is a Self-Evaluation regarding the pillars of connection.  I share this tool with you to help you find the areas where the Lord may have even more profound peace, joy, and freedom for you | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #GreaterPeaceJoyandfreedom #Joyfreedom #GreaterPeaceGreater Peace, Joy, and Freedom!

Greater Peace, Joy, and freedom! Below is a Self-Evaluation regarding the pillars of connection.  I share this tool with you to help you find the areas where the Lord may have even more profound peace, joy, and freedom for you.  This is not a weapon to use to beat yourself up, but is meant to be an aid for you to know better how to focus your prayer in a way to remove the blocks from receiving God’s love.

Human & Spiritual Integration Self-Evaluation

Chosen:

  • Do I lack a sense of belonging?
  • Do I feel insecure or self-conscious?
  • Do I feel or am I told I lack self-awareness?
  • Am I frequently at odds with others?
  • Do I have prejudices or judgments in my heart towards other individuals or groups of people?

 

Known:

  • Do I feel forgotten, abandoned, or rejected by God when things don’t turn out as I wish?
  • Do I find myself being self-critical and unforgiving toward myself?
  • Do I find it difficult to pay attention to others?  Am I easily annoyed by others?

 

Valued:

  • Do I struggle with scrupulosity?
  • Do I find myself focusing on the externals in spirituality and religion?
  • Do I focus on the law’s letter rather than the law’s spirit?
  • Am I preoccupied with my looks, image, success, etc.?
  • Do I need expressions of gratitude and/or affirmation from others, and the lack of such robs my peace?
  • Am I saddened at the success of others and see others as competition?
  • Do I find it challenging to share the spotlight or credit with others?

 

Boundaries:

  • Do I experience morality and prayer primarily as what God wants from me more than what He has for me, as a gift?
  • Do I struggle with perfectionism, negative self-talk, being self-critical, or overextending myself and have difficulty resting or relaxing?
  • Do I struggle to set boundaries or to respect the boundaries of others?
  • Do I find the need to control others?
  • Do I experience boundaries from others as rejection, or do they anger me?

 

Openness:

  • Do I struggle to pray from my heart with authenticity and honesty?
  • Do I avoid self-reflection?
  • Do I fear my weaknesses being seen by others?

Discipline and Discipleship

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Discipline and Discipleship | Why does discipleship conjure up such a beautiful sentiment for most of us, but discipline not so much? | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #DisciplineandDiscipleshipDiscipline and Discipleship

Why does discipleship conjure up such a beautiful sentiment for most of us, but discipline not so much?  If you’re like me, you might feel like discipline is about how you are not good enough, that something more is going to be required from you, and you already feel like you’re at your limit. By contrast, discipleship can make us think of sharing intimately with the Lord and participating in His mission.

In the book of Hebrews, we are told that the Lord disciplines us because we are His children.  Discipline is because we are deeply and dearly loved.  It’s how He aligns more closely with Himself and fine-tunes us to His voice.  Only when we are submitted to the Lord’s discipline are we ready to be commissioned for more intimate service.  Put another way, only when we follow the Lord’s footsteps closely are we prepared to lead safely.

When the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she did not say “yes” because he did not ask her a question.  He told her what was going to happen.  She submitted to the Lord’s way.  The same is true of us.  The Lord does not ask our permission.  Loved ones are taken, we get ill, things don’t go as it seems they ought to, all without the Lord asking if that’s ok.  However, we are called to submit our mission to the Lord’s mission.  We submit, that is, we put our plan under (sub) His and leave it to Him to order things rightly according to His infinite wisdom and goodness.

Sometimes, stretching in charity or generosity will not feel very natural at all.  That does not mean we are being inauthentic.  The truth is that we have a concept of ourselves based on where we are and how we are feeling today.  Only the Lord knows who He made us to be and what He is fashioning us into.  He is the Potter.  We are the clay.

Let’s submit ourselves to discipline in our lives so that we may be aligned more closely to the Lord and get under the spout where the glory comes out!

May the Lord give you His peace!

Margaret

 

Finding Healing for Holiness and Healthy Relationships

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Finding Healing for Holiness and Healthy Relationships | We all share a call to holiness, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out and the Scriptural basis for this comes from Ephesians 1:4 where we hear that we were chosen in Jesus by the Father before the world even came to be.  That means we are set apart for Him |  #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #FindingHealingforHolinessandHealthyRelationships #HealingforHolinessand #HealthyRelationshipsFinding Healing for Holiness and Healthy Relationships

Finding Healing for Holiness and Healthy Relationships. We all share a call to holiness, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, and the Scriptural basis for this comes from Ephesians 1:4, where we hear that we were chosen in Jesus by the Father before the world even came to be.  That means we are set apart for Him. We are made for a profound union with Him body, mind, and spirit for all eternity.  Even as intimate as marriage is, it only symbolizes the union we will have with God forever.  In Heaven, those who are married in this life will no longer be married to a human spouse.  Yet, the espousal relationship with the Lord will remain for eternity.  Connection is our most basic human need.  When we experience it, we flourish and suffer when we are lacking in that way.  No connection will ever be so profound and complete as what we are called to with the Lord.

What comprises connection?  It’s being chosen, known as an individual who is very good, value inherently, not based on what we do, and being safe with our boundaries being respected.  God supplies for these connection needs superabundantly beyond what we could ever hope for or imagine.  We have a God-sized whole within us because we were made for Him, and only He can satisfy these needs.  Sadly, parents or early caregivers often modeled something for us that was less than a good image of God, so it became difficult for us to believe that He relates to us in these ways.  So, how we relate to ourselves became flawed as we began to relate to ourselves in the way we were related.

Yet, these must be chosen, known, valued, protected, and provided for to remain as central as ever.  Much of the disappointment, frustration, and conflict we see in our world is because people are trying to get other people to fill those needs.  However, it’s only in receiving the Lord’s deep satisfaction of these needs that will allow us to live lives of profound freedom, joy, and peace.

Let’s take these areas of pain and hurt to the Lord and allow Him to show us the truth of who we are in Him.  Receive your Eternal Bridegroom into your heart this day.  Give yourself to the One who left Heaven to purchase you at the price of His Precious Blood and loves you personally and intimately beyond your wildest hopes or imaginings.

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

 

Parenting as God Parents

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Parenting as God Parents | Parenting is a tall order.  Not only does it mean forming little minds and souls while keeping little bodies protected and provided for but parents image God.  How we relate to little people as parents or in roles of authority becomes how they perceive the Lord | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnection #ParentingasGodParentsParenting as God Parents

Parenting as God Parents. Parenting is a tall order.  Not only does it mean forming little minds and souls while keeping little bodies protected and provided for but parents image God.  How we relate to little people as parents or in roles of authority becomes how they perceive the Lord.  Because they perceive us as all-knowing and all-powerful (even though we are NOT), how we interact with them becomes how they perceive He Who is really all-knowing and all-powerful.  This can be done in a beautifully good way, as St. Therese of Lisieux’s parents imaged God for her.  Through her autobiography, Story of a Soul, the reader can see how she so naturally transitioned from being related to in a loving way that she came to understand that she is lovable and then could so easily perceive God as loving her deeply.  It was the reception of that love that filled her and strengthened her interior life. So, when it was lacking externally from uncharitable experiences from her religious sisters, she could maintain her peace.

In psychologist Madeline Levine’s article, Raising Successful Children, she explains that being overly protective and controlling of children does them no favors.  It can cripple them emotionally.  It’s the sweet spot of setting high expectations, being available, and attentive but letting go that is most beneficial.  When we focus on controlling the external results, a child loses motivation, comes to see themselves as incapable, and can become fearful of trying because of possible failure.

On the contrary, when we foster the internal development of the child – focusing on the development of character rather than external results, a child develops a self, an interior sense of who they are as someone who can struggle through obstacles and so is capable to handle the challenges that life might put in front of them.

I know this can be easier said than done if we were neglected in some way as children.  We can want to catch them before they fall.  Also, if we see their achievements as a reflection of who we are, we can try to live vicariously through them.  Let’s consider, though, how God parents us.  He has set high expectations of us by calling us to love Him, ourselves, and one another.  He is always available to us and yet respects the free will He has given us, and He doesn’t interfere with that.  As we choose the good it is not just the good result that is good, the choosing itself is good.  It’s the exercise of virtue and freedom when we had the ability and option of doing otherwise that is so precious.  It’s not just winning the good fight that is good.  The choosing to fight the good fight is where the victory begins.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be persons.  We would be robots.

If you struggle to allow your child the good struggle that will allow him or her to develop interiorly, ask the Lord to show you what fear might lurk behind that.  Good Father, please give us the grace to parent as you do and so endow the children you entrust to us with truly free wills that are capable of choosing the good, especially You who are the greatest good.

May the Lord give you peace.

Tips for Connection

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Tips for Connection | Following are some very practical ways you can approach parenting to give both you and your child a sense of predictability and peace.  Know that if you are a new parent, these will be easier than if you have not been parenting in this way and make the switch to them | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #TipsforConnectionTips for Connection

Tips for Connection. Following are some very practical ways you can approach parenting to give both you and your child a sense of predictability and peace.  Know that if you are a new parent, these will be easier than if you have not been parenting in this way and make the switch to them.  It is normal and natural for a child to test boundaries that are set for them.  It’s part of how we learn.  Eventually, a child will learn that the boundaries you set will hold (if you stick to them) and there will be less and less testing, just as we only drop things intentionally when we are very little.  Once we see that when dropped an object will fall to the ground, we know that the law of gravity pertains to us and we don’t wonder what will happen if we drop something.

Parenting Tips

  • Address only the “wise”/cooperative part of the child from your true self.

 

  • Do not make the child responsible for your emotions. Relate to the child out of calm compassion and encourage him/her to take responsibility for his/her emotions.

 

  • Be calm and assertive. If you cannot be and stay calm and assertive, look at and address why you cannot.

 

  • Affirm and accentuate the positive minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day.

 

  • The child fundamentally wants to feel safe. When behavior is oppositional, angry, and defiant simply state and reassure emotional/physical safety.

 

  • Give free choices between true options whenever possible and affirm the choice that is made.

 

  • Create “no fail” situations that do not have any objective other than BEING one-on-one together with the child. This is time to develop relationship – not to reprimand or give directives.

 

  • Have and keep clear house rules with clear privileges and consequences that all caregivers enforce.  This prevents a sense of unknown/unpredictable for caregivers and child.

 

  • Focus on affirming and enjoying them rather than being afraid of or for them or controlling their behavior. The better he feels about himself the more he will control his own behavior.

 

  • If you expect her to fail, she probably will.

 

  • Be the leader. Do not wait for your child to set the tone for the day.  Treat oppositional behavior directly and immediately with the agreed upon consequences and then move on.  If you’re holding a grudge, deal with yourself and what that’s about.

 

  • Being frustrated is normal. Be frustrated with the behavior and not with the child.  If he becomes frustrated with himself as well, his behavior will only worsen and compound the problem.

Know that unaddressed trauma – even traumas that happened in the womb or as an infant can cause many confounding emotional and behavioral problems.  If a child is consistently in crisis, even behaviorally, that may indicate a need for trauma therapy.

Parenting is so important.  Consider that you are imaging God for your child.  How you represent the Lord far more than what you say about Him will come to be how he or she understands God.  It’s a noble calling and crucial to the forming of a world of peace.  May God bless your efforts with His own grace and strength, He who is Father of us all.

May the Lord give you peace.

Margaret

 

Parenting for Connection

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Parenting for Connection | Connection to God, self, and others is fundamentally important to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being.  Without it, we seek to self-medicate the emptiness through all sorts of things that will never satisfy and will only further the disconnection | #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #ParentingforconnectionParenting for Connection

Parenting for Connection. Connection to God, self, and others is fundamentally important to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being.  Without it, we seek to self-medicate the emptiness through all sorts of things that will never satisfy and will only further the disconnection.  So, when we consider the task of parenting or even mentoring as godparents, coaches, teachers, etc. it is critically important to raise adults who are able to be connected and then able to foster the same in the future generations.

As we parent and mentor it is important to know what our goals are.  When we parent to foster connection, we are looking to raise adults who are able to give generously to and receive gratefully from others.  Another goal is that they will relate to themselves in a compassionate way, seeing themselves as God sees them.  That same mercy and self-compassion then flows our to others.  They will relate to the Lord with reverence and intimacy as the ultimate source of and one who has the greatest claim to our connection.

Over the next episodes, we will discuss parenting and mentoring based on the pillars of connection:  chosen (being directly and intentionally related to), known (seen and heard as an individual who is very good), valued (having inherent dignity as children of God), and boundaries (that physically, emotionally, and spiritually there is a place where we stop and the other starts that we must reverence and respect).

The benefits to children raised for healthy and authentic connection are so numerous.  They will have right order in their lives that will protect them from the chaos and drama that goes with disordered living.  They will have resilience built up within them that will help inoculate them against the effects of bullying.  Ultimately, they will have freedom, joy, and the shalom peace, that is, wholeness and completeness in their lives and will come to foster the same in others.

Join me as we take a look at parenting and mentoring adults for the future of our Church and society who are whole and holy!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Diligence Overtakes Sloth

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Diligence Overtakes Sloth | One of the cardinal or key virtues, that of fortitude, helps us in the forming of the virtue of diligence.  Being diligent means being consistently oriented toward the good.  It helps us take the desire and aspiration for good and make it practical and real | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharity #DiligenceOvertakesSlothDiligence Overtakes Sloth

Diligence Overtakes Sloth. One of the cardinal or key virtues, that of fortitude, helps us in the forming of the virtue of diligence.  Being diligent means being consistently oriented toward the good.  It helps us take the desire and aspiration for good and make it practical and real.  The strength (fortitude) when exercised in very human or even seemingly mundane duties forms a habit of diligence.  We become consistent in our ability to choose the good.  We know God is the greatest good and so the exercise of actual movement in the direction of choosing the good is essential.  How amazing to think doing our daily duties, when done out of love for God and as a way of exercising self-discipline and diligence can help us in our spiritual lives.

By contrast, sloth is an apathy towards the good and can even end us up with a lack of desire for spiritual things.  The giving in to the lack of discipline can be a slippery slope.  Rejoicing in the Lord and delighting in Him isn’t just a saying.  It’s a real injunction we ought to take seriously and follow with constancy by choosing the good for love of Him.

We tend to think about and move towards what we keep in the forefront of our minds.  We can think about uprooting any of the vices but how beautiful when we ponder the love, goodness, and beauty of the Lord.  There’s a supernatural attractiveness toward Him because He is the ultimate good.  As we allow these things to fill our minds, hearts, and speech they become that much more what animates our lives in all areas.  We look back after some time and see how far the Lord by His grace has brought us.  The pressure isn’t on us to transform ourselves.  The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.  We simply need to cooperate – work with – His grace and allow Him to transform us from glory to glory.  When we give the Lord our five loaves and two fish, He multiplies our meager offerings.  Let’s trust in His goodness and power to do far more than we can ask or imagine!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Growing Charity to Uproot Greed

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Growing Charity to Uproot Greed | Charity is the virtue that wars against greed.  Generosity can be used interchangeably with the word charity.  Perhaps charity has become so overused that we can forget the real meaning | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #GrowingCharitytoUprootGreed #UprootGreed #GrowingCharityGrowing Charity to Uproot Greed

Growing Charity to Uproot Greed. Charity is the virtue that wars against greed.  Generosity can be used interchangeably with the word charity.  Perhaps charity has become so overused that we can forget the real meaning.  We give to charities which do good to those in need and are called to be charitable or kind toward others.  We don’t hear the word generous used so often in so many ways.  So, it can more readily bring to mind the image of someone giving to a point of sacrifice in a way that is unexpected and moving.  That is how we are called to give, and it is also how we are called to be in our interactions with others.  That means it doesn’t just pertain to the giving of material goods but also the giving of our time and attention in acknowledging others, affirming the good, expressing value of the other, and so on.

St. Francis of Assisi cautioned his brothers against ‘appropriating’ anything as their own.  This is the attitude that underpins a generous heart.  When we stay rooted in the fact that everything we are and everything we receive is a gift from God, we are able to give of our goods and of ourselves in a way that doesn’t count the cost because we know we are not the ones who paid the price.  It was paid by the Lord.

This fundamental attitude helps to fix us in a stance counter to greed.  Generosity focuses us on allowing the flow of God’s goodness to flow through us.  Greed seeks to get for ourselves.  The Lord has so made us for generosity and charity that we receive a physiological benefit from it.  When we act in charity, are the recipients of a charitable act, or even witness a charitable act a hormone called oxytocin is released within us that fosters further acts of love, trust, and friendship.  Oxytocin is the physical basis for the warm, fuzzy feelings we experience when we see or experience loving interactions between people.

May the Lord make us conduits of His infinitely generous love!

And may the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Precious Blood of Jesus

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Precious Blood of Jesus | July is the month we take to honor and reflect on the power of the Precious Blood of Jesus.  I’m thinking how awesome Jesus’ death and resurrection victory is and that we take Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday to try to break that down so we can really consider it full | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #PreciousBloodofJesusPrecious Blood of Jesus

Precious Blood of Jesus. July is the month we take to honor and reflect on the power of the Precious Blood of Jesus.  I’m thinking how awesome Jesus’ death and resurrection victory is and that we take Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday to try to break that down so we can really consider it fully.  There’s so much and so we take even more time to try to absorb that – celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus in June and the Precious Blood of Jesus in July!  Every Friday, too, the Church encourages us to reflect on the Passion of Our Lord.  We really can never exhaust all there is to ponder and receive from our Good, Good God!

The celebration of the Precious Blood of Jesus this month flows, quite literally, from the Sacred Heart of Jesus since His Heart was pierced by the lance when He was crucified.  He emptied Himself as blood and water gushed forth.  Calling on the Blood of Jesus invokes the power of the Lord’s death and resurrection.  As baptized members of His Body, His Blood surges through us cleansing us, renewing us, protecting us, and empowering us.  Blood is the life force in all of us.  Jesus’ Blood is Divine Life force!

In the Eucharist we receive that Precious Blood practically, tangibly, and we can call upon that same power.  As blood gives life, Divine Blood incorporates us into Divine Life.  If we are suffering in any way, we can call upon the power of His Blood to cleanse us from the infernal attacks of the enemy, to heal everyone of our ills, and to draw us into the life of Divine Intimacy He has created us for and calls us into.  The same redemptive and transformative power that is the Lord’s was poured out for us on the Cross and is celebrated this month in a special way.

At the beginning of this month, we celebrated the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle.  Placing his hand into the wounds in Jesus’ hand and side transformed Thomas from the doubter to such a man of faith that he suffered martyrdom in witness to the Lord.  Let’s place ourselves in those wounds as we call upon the power of the Precious Blood of Jesus and witness to Jesus’ life and love by our lives!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Meekness, Uprooting Anger

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Meekness, Uprooting Anger |Growing in virtue is what happens when our conscience becomes more and more penetrated by the truth that the Lord perfectly provides for and protects us within the loving boundaries of how He has called us to live.  We needn’t struggle and strive to earn a sense of value.  He poured His very Self out for us to reveal His love for us and redeem us | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #Friends #Meekness,UprootingAnger #Uprooting AngerMeekness, Uprooting Anger

Meekness, Uprooting Anger. Growing in virtue is what happens when our conscience becomes more and more penetrated by the truth that the Lord perfectly provides for and protects us within the loving boundaries of how He has called us to live.  We needn’t struggle and strive to earn a sense of value.  He poured His very Self out for us to reveal His love for us and redeem us.  He knows everything about us, far more than we could ever hope to know ourselves because it is He who made us and created us in love!  This is the foundation of living a life of Divine Intimacy.  These truths are the superabundant supply for what our hearts are longing.

Transformed by this reality, we realize we don’t need to protect ourselves.  We become less and less fearful and self-reliant for protection.  Eventually, we come to realize that regardless of what tragedy might ever befall us, the Lord will use it for our good.  I think of the example of St. Stephen being stoned and how Scripture tells us his face was like that of an angel while it was happening.  His was a tremendous example of not responding in anger but meeting circumstances with meekness.

Meekness is said to be “strength under control”.  He found that strength by remaining united to the Lord trusting in His protection that is so thorough death has no power over it.  He patiently endured the ignorance, violence, and hostility knowing he didn’t need to rely on himself.  He trusted instead in God.  That can sound extreme!  What?  We can even die, and God is still in control, in charge, and using even that for our benefit???  Absolutely!  That is exactly the example Jesus gave us!  He trusted in His Father and now sits at His right hand in glory for all eternity.

We, too, can grow in meekness and let go of the burden of self-reliance when we stay grounded in the reality of Jesus’ love for us.  Let’s not feel like we need to engineer our own sanctification.  It’s a lie and a trap.  Self-reliance is self-reliance.  Let’s instead rely on the Holy Spirit Who is the Sanctifier!  Let’s seek to surrender to Him in everything and so be transformed by Him through whatever comes our way.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Friends in High Places

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Friends in High Places | Sometimes in life, we can feel quite lonely for reasons that might be physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Perhaps we are living far away from support, need to travel a lot, or perhaps we recently lost a loved one | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #FriendsinHighPlaces #FriendsFriends in High Places

Friends in High Places. Sometimes in life, we can feel quite lonely for reasons that might be physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Perhaps we are living far away from support, need to travel a lot, or perhaps we recently lost a loved one.  We can feel emotionally alone, as though no one understands us.  Our circumstances can leave us feeling isolated.  We can feel spiritually isolated because we find ourselves in the circumstances it seems our friends don’t understand.  Any of these types of loneliness can be very painful.

The truth is that we’re never alone.  We know our Lord sees and knows all we are enduring.  Yet, when the suffering is great, it can be helpful to have the awareness of someone who was not divine praying for us and cheering us on.  Thankfully, there are saints of all ages, all walks of life, and who were challenged in just about any way you can imagine.  They responded to the grace the Lord held out to them and in doing so chose to grow through hard times rather than go through hard times.  The same God who extended such grace to them extends grace to us that is just as powerful!  He is unchanging and is All-Powerful!

A couple of years ago a friend and I were chatting in a coffee shop, and I was sharing about how much I really love Simeon, the old man in the temple when Jesus was presented to and dedicated to God.  He had been promised that he would not die until he saw the messiah.  How many babies must have been brought in on a regular basis and dedicated to God.  Yet, on the day Jesus was brought in Simeon knew that he knew that baby was Jesus!  He was so sure that was the fulfillment of God’s promise that he prayed, telling God he could now die happy because God had done what He said He’d do for him.  That is amazing!  How in touch with the Holy Spirit must he have been to see that so clearly!  It’s not like Baby Jesus had a neon flashing light on Him.

When I shared this with my friend, she said that Simeon must be really devoted to me.  What???  Isn’t it that I’m really devoted to him?  She said the way she thinks about it is that in Heaven they are so filled with charity and knowing what we’ll endure or be called to in this life they are drawn to us and decide to commit to praying for us.  Wow!!!  That made so much sense to me and at the same time it has also given me a tremendous sense of being really cared for by the saints – our heroes and big brothers and sisters who are committed to pray for us.

You are not alone!!!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Freedom from Anxiety

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Freedom from Anxiety | Unfortunately, anxiety has become a very common symptom and causes many people great suffering.  Since the pandemic of Covid, those using anti-anxiety medications has reportedly increased by 34% | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #FreedomfromAnxietyFreedom from Anxiety

Freedom from Anxiety. Unfortunately, anxiety has become a very common symptom and causes many people great suffering.  Since the pandemic of Covid, those using anti-anxiety medications has reportedly increased by 34%. It is something that can really steal our peace and become disabling.

Let’s look at it from a whole person perspective physically, emotionally, and physically.  On a physical level, the overconsumption of caffeine can greatly contribute to anxiety and mimic the physical feeling of anxiety.  It can cause our thoughts to race and spin and our hearts to flutter.  The size of coffee drinks has grown and grown, and the same goes for energy drinks which today line the refrigerator cases in most convenient stores!  Couple that with how sedentary our lives are and the fact that many of us don’t get the release of endorphins caused by physical exertion.  Endorphins can help us feel good and physical exercise can help us feel calm.  Add to all that, the overindulgence in carbs and sugar!  Those can leave our bodies yo-yoing because of rising and crashing blood sugar levels.  Physically, we can make it almost impossible to experience calm in our bodies.

What about our minds?  When we rely on ourselves or others, we can certainly feel anxious.  We fundamentally are not as wise and powerful as any of us wishes we were.  Others can fail us and we quite often fail ourselves.  Health for our minds comes from relying on the God of all creation who is goodness itself and is totally for us and will never leave us.  He alone has the wisdom and power we need to live in peace no matter what may come because none of us knows or can control what will come!

When we exercise the muscle of choice, choosing to root and reroot ourselves in His Goodness, Wisdom, and Love, we are able to spiritually receive that gift of peace that surpasses what the world can give and what we could even imagine!

It’s not an either or in how to approach anxiety.  We really don’t get to choose between doing the healthy option physically or emotionally or spiritually.  Rather, we have to put all three together.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Model of Honesty

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Model of Honesty |St Margaret of Cortona lived back in the 1200s.  Her mother died when she was a young child, and her father remarried a woman who was cruel to Margaret| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #ModelofHonesty #St.MargaretofCortonaModel of Honesty

A Model of Honesty, Authenticity, and Courage – St. Margaret of Cortona

Model of Honesty. St Margaret of Cortona lived back in the 1200s.  Her mother died when she was a young child, and her father remarried a woman who was cruel to Margaret.  When she was 17 years old, she left home as the mistress of a nobleman to escape her father’s home and the abuse she endured there.  She lived in sin with him for nine years and they had a son together.  Even while in the midst of such a sinful life she wanted to live a better life but delayed her conversion.

One day, her lover’s dog came, got her, and led her into the woods where his dead body was.  Margaret realized she couldn’t delay her conversion and went on to exhibit true honesty, authenticity, and courage as she turned her back on her old way of life.  She admitted to herself and everyone that wrong is wrong and that she’d done wrong.  It took great authenticity and courage to not want to hide in shame.

She focused the same honesty, authenticity, and courage on the Lord after her conversion.   She continually begged Him for a sense of His Presence.  She focused her emotional neediness on Him and was unashamed in doing so.  He most often relented and gave her deep spiritual experiences of Himself.  One day in prayer, He showed her that her place in Heaven would be among the virgins.  He told her that is how He sees her.

The Lord’s ability to renew and transform so far exceeds anything we can comprehend.  His mercy and grace are so complete, and He puts our sins and shame so far from us.  We can take great courage from St. Margaret of Cortona’s life and imitate her example.  Let’s be honest about our sins, our neediness for the Lord, and authentically pursue Him wholeheartedly and with courage knowing that He will NEVER turn us away.  Rather, He will transform beyond our wildest dreams whatever we give Him!  Let’s give Him our hearts!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Humility Month

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Humility Month |In 1675, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, revealed His Sacred Heart, and asked for a feast celebrating His Heart in June.  There are so many things in the image of the Sacred Heart for each one of us to receive personally and to imitate| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #UprootingVice #HumilityMonthHumility Month

Celebrate June – Humility Month!

Humility Month. In 1675, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, revealed His Sacred Heart, and asked for a feast celebrating His Heart in June.  There are so many things in the image of the Sacred Heart for each one of us to receive personally and to imitate.

First, the fact that the King of Kings, the Most Majestic One, reveals Himself to each one of us is mind-blowing.  What a tremendous gift that is far beyond what we could ever ask!  Secondly, His Heart is offered to each of us personally and in a very real and specific way in the Eucharist.  Also, we see His Heart crowned with thorns reminding us of the mocking and belittling He endured from the soldiers during His passion.  Another thing we see is that His Heart is pierced with the lance because He so completely emptied every drop of blood and water for us.

He held nothing back.  His Heart is mounted with the Cross that He transformed from a sign of torture and suffering to a sign of victory, reminding us that if we bring our sufferings to Him, He will transform them and us.  Finally, we see the roaring flame, which represents His passionate love for each of us.  It consumes Him and brings Him from Heaven to earth, and by it, He fits us for Heaven.

We can seek to imitate each one of these same aspects of His Heart, exposing our hearts to Him, offering them to Him we each one of our sufferings for Him to transform us by the fire of His Love and affect His victory in us and through us.  He calls us to Him saying that He is meek and humble of heart and will give us rest for our souls.  We do not need to rely on ourselves!  That is a sure recipe for anxiety!  Let us rely on Him, who is all-loving, all-good, meek, and humble, totally with you and totally for you!

Let’s let every time we hear ‘pride’ this month be a reminder to us of where our pride leads us and yet the humility of the Lord’s own Heart to which He longs to draw us.

Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts like Yours!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Growing Chastity and Uprooting Lust

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Growing Chastity and Uprooting Lust | We are bombarded with lustful images daily.  Billboards, commercials, song lyrics, and the like are often filled with impurity | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #GrowingChastityandUprootingLustGrowing Chastity and Uprooting Lust

Growing Chastity and Uprooting Lust. We are bombarded with lustful images daily.  Billboards, commercials, song lyrics, and the like are often filled with impurity.  It can be difficult to live lives of purity and chastity.  Yet, it is that to which we are called.  Why does God ask that of us?  It’s because He is very invested in our freedom!  He was from the beginning when He created us with free will, and even when man failed and turned away from Him, He sent Jesus to restore our freedom.

Sometimes, we can get the idea that lust is true freedom, but that is a lie.  Lust is a counterfeit attempt at the connection that leads us to compulsive and even addictive behavior.  Ted Bundy is a notorious serial killer who said that it was his early childhood exposure to pornography that led him into deeper and deeper bondage.  Ultimately, the desire to possess and use another human being for his own gratification led him to kill many people.

Chastity is expressed differently according to our state in life.  If we are married, it is being faithful to our spouse and sexuality, being oriented toward self-gift, and proper reception of the other’s gift of self.  On the contrary, lust is about taking rather than giving or receiving.  It is disordered and is about pleasure for the sake of pleasure.

How are we supposed to find the strength to live in such purity when we are surrounded by the sexually impure and when our culture is so accepting of lust as though it is normal or even good?  It is too much for us to do on our own strength and gratefully, we don’t have to.  Instead, when we turn the desire for intimacy and connection to the Lord and accept the infinite power of His love for us which is far more than we could hope for or imagine, we are filled to overflowing.

That might be difficult to believe if you have become immersed in impurity.  Instead of hiding in shame, expose your need to the Lord, who already knows and loves you more than you can believe.  Let Him know your need and use the occasions of temptations as reminders to you to ask for His help.  He will hear your prayer.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Growing Gratitude, Kindness

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Growing Gratitude Kindness |Envy is the vice of wanting something that isn’t mine| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #UprootingVice #GrowingGratitudeKindnessGrowing Gratitude, Kindness

Uprooting Envy

Growing Gratitude Kindness. Envy is the vice of wanting something that isn’t mine.  Which is actually wanting something contrary to what the Lord knows will lead me to the joy, peace, and contentment He has for me.  When we don’t stay rooted and grounded in love like St. Paul tells us to in his letter to the Ephesians, we can quickly get off track and end up in such self-defeating and relationship-disrupting behavior.

King David gave into envy when he wanted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, for his own.  He didn’t value her rightly by lusting for her and certainly didn’t value Uriah properly by sending him to the front lines in battle so that he would be killed.  Before that, he failed to stay rooted in God’s love for him and the knowledge that the same God who protected him from Goliath when he was a shepherd and provided for him to be an anointed king was providing for him.  Instead, he went outside of God’s boundaries seeking to provide for himself.

Another example from Scripture is the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son.  He was so envious of what his brother had received and may stand to receive in the future that he refused to go inside and celebrate his brother’s return.  Because of his envy, he lacked gratitude for the safe return of his brother to a relationship with himself and his father.  That lack of gratitude led to a lack of kindness towards his brother and father.  We can see why gratitude and kindness go together as virtues.

The Lord has so made us for acts of virtue that our bodies respond positively to them.  In a very real sense, the wages of sin are death, and virtue leads to life.  When we show kindness, receive kindness, or even witness kindness, oxytocin (one of the four feel-good hormones that foster love, trust, and friendship) is released in our bodies.  Being grateful feels good.  It brings light, peace, and joy.  Being envious feels bad.  Our bodies cry out to tell us what we are and aren’t made for.

If you struggle with envy, take some time to praise and thank the Lord for the revelation of His beauty and power in whatever it is you value.  This will get you back to being grounded in the Lord’s love and valuing things rightly as flowing from Him for His glory.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Growing Humility Uprooting Pride

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Growing Humility Uprooting Pride |Scripture tells us to choose the way of humility rather than pride.  It tells us that God favors the humble and humbles the proud| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingHumilityUprootingPride #GrowingHumility #UprootingPrideGrowing Humility Uprooting Pride

Growing Humility Uprooting Pride. Scripture tells us to choose the way of humility rather than pride.  It tells us that God favors the humble and humbles the proud.  Jesus even came to give us an example to follow.  His whole earthly life was, from first to last, a wondrous showcase of profound humility.  He emptied Himself and took on our humanity, was born in humble circumstances to poor parents, associated with the lowly, washed feet, and was buried in a borrowed grave.  We are told that is the example that we are to follow.  Yet, if we rely on our own ability to act with humility, we immediately fall into pride.  So, how is this to happen?

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier!  We are called to respond to God’s grace, not to be the source.  When the Lord told Peter to put his nets out on the other side after he’d fished all night and caught nothing, it required an initial act of humility to respond to a carpenter’s advice about fishing.  Yet, when His grace-filled Peter’s nets to the point of tearing with 153 fish, he grew in humility, even falling at the Lord’s feet and asking Him to depart, confessing his own sinfulness.

When we experience suffering, powerlessness, and insults, we can turn in fear to reliance upon ourselves, but that will ultimately lead to anxiety, shame, and feelings of disconnection from the Lord, ourselves, and others.  That only fuels the vicious cycle as our fear increases and around and around we go.  However, if we respond to suffering by sending our roots more deeply into God’s love for us, it is readily apparent that He is the one to rely on, our hearts are lifted in gratitude to Him, and we experience a sense of intimacy with Him.

We can have confidence – literally being ‘with faith’ when that faith is in Him rather than ourselves, knowing that His power is able to do anything, even though frail instruments like ourselves.  He is all-powerful and loves us more deeply than we can ever imagine.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Growing Virtue and Uprooting Vice

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Growing Virtue and Uprooting Vice | For the longest time, I would bristle when I would hear people talking about growing virtue and rooting out vice because so many times it sounded like something they were engineering | #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #GrowingVirtue #UprootingVice #GrowingVirtueandUprootingViceGrowing Virtue and Uprooting Vice

Growing Virtue and Uprooting Vice. For the longest time, I would bristle when I would hear people talking about growing virtue and rooting out vice because so many times it sounded like something they were engineering.  I’m thoroughly convinced that growing in holiness is something I’m completely incapable of on my own, and I can easily get myself tied in a knot if I try.

I remember the Lord telling me once in prayer when pondering such a thing, “I don’t need your treatment plan.”  A therapist creates a treatment plan to work toward health with a client.  The Lord was letting me know in not so many words that He had a far better idea of what growth I needed and how to accomplish it.  It put me back in the spot of receiving from the Lord, which is a far better spot to be.  The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.  I’m not.

As we dig into the concepts of connection:  1. that we are chosen by the God of all creation to exist here now and are made to spend eternity with Him, 2. known more intimately by Him than we could ever know ourselves, 3. valued so totally by He who emptied Himself to redeem us and manifest the Father’s love for us, and 4. protected and provided for by the God of all creation, we are filled with such a sense of love, security, stability, and belonging that far surpasses anything we could ever hope for or imagine.  It is exactly that deep and abiding unearned love that flowers into a virtue when responded to.  If we try to do it on our own, it is an exercise in futility or even frustration.  If we do have any success, we can so easily end up being proud of our humility.

It is Jesus who makes us into a gift to the Father by the action of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, we are called to collaborate with that grace.  We must receive it first.  Regardless of if we are male or female, the soul is primarily receptive.  The Lord is the Bridegroom and is the initiator.  In receiving not just His love, but He who is Love, and responding in love to His love, we move from vice to virtue.

Let’s receive Him, His love, and take on His mind and heart of compassion towards ourselves; then, He will naturally flow through us to others.

May the Lord give you peace!

  • Margaret

Freedom from Pornography Part 2

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Freedom From Pornography part 2 |Steve Pokorny, founder of Freedom Coaching (Freedom-Coaching.net), joined me to discuss his mission to set the captives free from the addiction to pornography| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #freedom #FreedomFromPornography #FreedomFromPornographypart2 #part2Freedom from Pornography Part 2

Interview with Steve Pokorny

Freedom from Pornography Part 2 with Steve Pokorny, founder of Freedom Coaching and author of Redeemed Vision:  Setting the Blind Free from the Pornified Culture, sat down with me to finish our discussion.  Make sure you check out Part 1 from last week to hear how Steve himself ended up addicted to pornography.  It’s amazing how the Lord uses those who have struggled and suffered to minister to the very people who are struggling the way they once did.  He, indeed, is the Redeemer!  Find Steve’s site at Freedom-Coaching.net.

He lost his father and mother to cancer, so he was desperate to learn how to pray.  He began to have a relationship with the Lord but hadn’t yet opened to Him the area of pornography.  He moved in with his aunt and uncle.  He was highly involved in school but didn’t feel known for who he really was.  He was living in a sexual silence because he wasn’t being educated on human sexuality.  His identity was being chipped away at by his addiction to porn.

Steve highly recommends the document Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.  It’s only by living in the truth that we are set free.  He was in the seminary in Cleveland, OH, for four years and still didn’t receive proper healthy sexual formation.

Steve met a girl he really came to care about, and his love was unrequited.  He tried to cope with the apparent rejection by way of pornography.  He discerned out of seminary, taught for a year, and then ended up at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  The Lord broke into his life at a Festival of Praise at FUS.  He was coming to know the Lord’s love and his identity as God’s son.  The Father’s love broke in and changed his desire to lust after women to want to serve them.  He ended up backsliding and wondering if it that freedom had been a mirage. He ended up finding Theology of the Body but living with the struggle towards porn.

Steve shared that he went through a week of intensive trauma therapy with me and that through the experience, the Lord set him free from the guilt and shame he was carrying and from the addiction to pornography.

No matter your struggles, the Lord can set you free and redeem the pain for your good and His glory.  There is nothing beyond His reach.

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

 

Freedom From Pornography

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Freedom From Pornography |Steve Pokorny, founder of Freedom Coaching (Freedom-Coaching.net), joined me to discuss his mission to set the captives free from the addiction to pornography| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #freedom #FreedomFromPornography #part1Freedom From Pornography

Part 1 Interview with Steve Pokorny

Freedom From Pornography with Steve Pokorny, founder of Freedom Coaching (Freedom-Coaching.net), joined me to discuss his mission to set the captives free from the addiction to pornography.  He grew up in Cleveland, OH, suburbs.  His father was a Vietnam veteran and suffered from its lingering effects, particularly depression.  He was an attorney and worked long hours.  He got caught in a get-rich-quick scheme, and, to his knowledge, he had lost a lot of money, after which he attempted suicide.  He did not complete the suicide attempt but remained without short-term memory because of the damage.  He was very impaired and was moved to a nursing home.  This left Steve very disconnected from his dad from the time he was five years old.  This drastically interrupted his ability to connect to his father.

One day as a boy of 12 years old, he found in the middle of his street images of hard-core pornography.  He had had no education about sexuality or education.  He shared with other kids about the images and ended up selling them images to his friend for $20.  For Steve as a boy, there was a space in him that created a perfect storm.  Lust, anger, control, and fear were layered within him.  He points out that lust leads to violence, as many serial killers start out with exposure to porn.  It also leads to the violence of abortion.

For Steve, pornography was a poisoned apple that was dropped into an area of hunger.  He was thirsting to have his masculinity affirmed.  He felt fatherless, even though he had some good men in his life.  He was searching for a connection and was left to settle for a counterfeit.  This worsened things even more by filling him with shame.  The shame left him afraid and hiding from the people he needed.  Dr. Vincent Felitti once said in a talk I heard, “You can never get enough of what almost works.”  He didn’t feel comfortable in his own skin and found it difficult to connect with others.  He ended up feeling pain or numbness with feelings of guilt, shame, and self-hatred.

Make sure you turn in next week to hear Part 2 to hear how the Lord set Steve free and moved him into ministry to others!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Suffering Is a Pain

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Suffering Is a Pain |This is a topic that is always with us in this life!  As Catholics we often hear about the redemptive power of suffering.| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #SufferingIsAPain #SufferingSuffering Is a Pain

Suffering Is a Pain. This is a topic that is always with us in this life!  As Catholics we often hear about the redemptive power of suffering.  How are we to do that in a way that is powerful and in a way where we collaborate with the grace the Lord is giving?  We know the saints suffered well and that is even before they were saints.  We can tend to forget they weren’t yet canonized when they were still alive.  What is the difference between suffering and just being in pain?

Suffering is the way we respond to pain.  We often get taught not to grumble, complain, become impatient, take it out on your neighbor, or self-medicate.  Yet, nature abhors a vacuum and it’s insufficient to hear what not to do.  We need to know what to do.

  1. First, we need to acknowledge the suffering or frustration and not stuff it and then leave the emotions to come out sideways. In Jesus’ agony in the garden before His crucifixion, He didn’t deny or minimize what He was about to undergo, even though He knew how things were going to end and that He would rise in three days!  He still sweat blood.  He was real with the situation and was in touch with His emotions.  Emotions are energy that move us from or towards something and if we just stuff them, they can come out in a variety of unhealthy ways.

 

  1. Secondly, we can consider how the Lord experienced the same type of suffering or greater. He suffered in many ways in His earthly life, even before His Passion.  He put up with frustration in dealing with the apostles as they bickered about who was the greatest, He was a sign of contradiction, rejected even for doing good, denied, betrayed, tortured, mocked, ridiculed, and put to death.

 

  1. Next, we can unite our sufferings to His. That is so powerful.  The notion of atonement – being at one with Him can afford us an insight into the Lord’s own pain and what He endured for love of us.  Also, because He suffered in these ways, He is well acquainted with what we suffer.  I can be present to He who is present to me.

 

  1. Then, we experience the intimacy of being seen into by Him as we see into what He suffered. When the pain goes away what is left is love.  Suffering hurts, is painful, is difficult.  Don’t beat yourself up for that or put pressure on yourself that suffering shouldn’t be difficult.  If it wasn’t so, it wouldn’t be suffering.  Yet, the Lord can transform every occasion of suffering into an occasion of intimacy with Him.  His compassionate love sustains us in the midst of the difficulty.

 

  1. Finally, we do whatever good we are supposed to be doing out of the power of intimacy with the Lord. Suffering does NOT have to lead us to isolation, but through drawing closer to the Lord in the midst of it there is intimacy with the Lord. We are moved out of the isolation of pain into the intimacy of suffering with the Lord and then empowered by the union with Him and His Holy Spirit to imitate Him.  We are not made for isolation, but for connection.

Somehow through it all we are transformed from death to new life in Him!  He equips our crosses with that same transforming power of His Cross.

Matter of Life and Death

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Matter of Life and Death |In Scripture, we hear a lot about dying to ourselves.  We are commanded to do it and told it is essential for life|  #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #MargaretVasquezs #MatterOfLifeAndDeath Matter of Life and Death

Matter of Life and Death. In Scripture, we hear a lot about dying to ourselves.  We are commanded to do it and told it is essential for life.  So, what does that actually mean?  What is dying to ourselves?  Is there a value in suffering for the sake of suffering?  No!  The power and beauty of suffering come by enduring the pain and suffering of this life by joining it to the suffering of Christ.

As baptized members of His Body, we die with Him and rise with Him to know life.  In this way, death is active, not passive.  It’s staying connected to the Lord by actively and consciously uniting our pain to His.  We are called to die to sin and selfishness by embracing our crosses for the love of Him as He embraced the Cross for the love of us.  That union with Him – the Divine Indwelling of the Holy Trinity gives us the power to go through anything.

How are you planning to die today?  How am I planning to die today? – Rather than planning to please ourselves, we can plan how to let His Spirit and grace flow through us.  That’s how we can be conduits of grace rather than consumed with ourselves.  It allows us to become more and more transformed into Him.  We can suffer on our own, but in doing it in union with Jesus, we are able to grow into deeper spiritual maturity.

It’s more a matter of how we do what we do.  It doesn’t matter if we are called to a life of ministry.  Going the extra mile above and beyond the call of duty in whatever it is, we do we die to our plans and our convenience and are able to be Jesus to others in very simple and practical ways.

There’s a joy that comes from doing these things.  We are physically made for these things to feel good!  Oxytocin – one of the feel-good hormones – is released when we minister to others, are ministered to, or even witness someone else minister to another.

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  Living to die to ourselves brings the deep joy for which we are made.  St. Francis of Assisi said that when we do these things, the second death will do us no harm.  We will already be fitted for Heaven!

How are we trying to die today?

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Don’t Believe the Lies

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Don't Believe the Lies |Margaret Vasquez’s Testimony. When Satan can get us to question God’s goodness and who He is as our Good Father and who we are as His beloved children, anything is possible in a really bad way| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #DontBelievetheLies #MargaretVasquezsDon’t Believe the Lies

Don’t Believe the Lies. Margaret Vasquez’s Testimony. When Satan can get us to question God’s goodness and who He is as our Good Father and who we are as His beloved children, anything is possible in a really bad way.  It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  It’s the tactic he used against Adam and Eve, and he tried it again when he tempted Jesus in the desert.  Satan is not the creator and he isn’t creative.  He does the same things over and over.  His desire is for disunity because Jesus longs that we be one, as He prayed at the Last Supper.  Satan wants to separate us from God and each other by causing division within our own minds and hearts.

Sometimes the painful circumstances of life tell us lies and when that happens often enough and from important people in our lives, we can fall into believing them.  The breakdown in connection to ourselves directly affects our relationship with God because, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “What is received is received according to the mode of the receiver.”  If our ‘mode’ becomes one of ‘I don’t belong’ or ‘I’m not lovable’, then we tend to interpret events and interactions with others in that light.  This even applies in terms of how we relate to the Lord.

I went through a lot of abuse in childhood and young adulthood – even from people in the Church.  The resulting disconnection with myself, the Lord, and others left me vulnerable to a same sex relationship and the pain and shame of it all made going to Church so painful that I stopped going for 6 years.  That caused even greater sense of disconnection and pain.  It was a vicious cycle until the Lord sovereignly broke in and reestablished my foundational identity as being chosen, known, valued, protected, and provided for by Him.  He completely removed all same sex attraction and showed me it was rooted in a lack of connection to myself.

Don’t believe the lie that it is how you were born and not something that can be healed.

The Lord said, “Behold, I make ALL things new.” – Revelation 21:5. Nothing is impossible to Him.

This is my testimony to His love, His power, His grace, His healing, and His infinite, unearned mercy in my life.

Thanks for listening.  To God be the glory!

  • Margaret

 

 

Repentance Those Hurt by Church Leadership

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Repentance Those Hurt by Church Leadership |Repentance is important, especially if you have been hurt by church leaders| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #RepentanceThoseHurtbyChurchLeadershipRepentance Those Hurt by Church Leadership

Repentance is important, especially if you have been hurt by church leaders. I was away from the Church for a number of years because of the abuse I suffered at the hands of Church leadership.  Maybe you or someone you love is in that same place in their walk.  During that time, annual programs welcomed Catholics back to the Church.  I felt that there was a step missing, that of acknowledging the hurt done by those in leadership.  This is what we extend to you today.

If someone in Church leadership offended you, I am so sorry for your pain or abuse.  Those in Church leadership have every bit as much of an ability to hurt people as anyone does.  People are still people, no matter what title they hold.  However, because of the roles they hold, those in leadership can wound us in the depths of our person, in the core of our spirituality.  They are meant to represent the Lord, so it can almost make us feel like God abused us, as crazy as that may sound.  Sometimes, even sacred art, music, and sacramentals can become triggering.

Repentance Heals

On behalf of the Church, Fr. David Tickerhoof and I acknowledge the pain and hurt you’ve endured and ask for your forgiveness.  We don’t want you to remain separated anymore.  No matter how little you might think you are, you are a crucial part of the Body of Christ, and we need you!  No member of the human body is disposable, and nor are you.  You are an essential member.

You actually have a special ability to minister to others who have experienced pain.  I remember something the Lord told me at one point when I was suffering because of those in the Church.  He said, “Everything you want from the Church, I want you to be that for the Church.”  It immediately refocused me on the Good Shepherd rather than the sheep.  Please return and extend that compassion you deserve to receive to those who are in the spot you were.

This Easter, we invite you to consider coming back to the Lord.  It doesn’t mean the hurtful way you were treated is right or doesn’t matter.  I invite you to think of that as our Good Father bringing you back into His House.  He can restore.  He does make ALL things new.

May the Lord give you peace!

 

 

Our Identity in Christ

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Our Identity in Christ |Our identity is crucial to our personal wholeness and growth in holiness| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness Our Identity in christ

Our identity is crucial to our personal wholeness and growth in holiness.  It’s a buzzword these days in secular society.  No matter who we are, how we live is going to flow from our identity.  Another way to say it is we behave according to who we believe we are.  For this very reason, the foundation of our human and spiritual integration is tied to who God is.  We have to get more foundational than the fact that we are his sons and daughters.  We must know what He’s like!

These days genealogy and DNA testing are ways that people might choose to come to know more about their ancestors.  Learning more about the people they came from sheds light on how they see and understand themselves.  How much more does it reveal to us who we are by coming to know who God is?!  After all, we are made in His image and likeness, as Genesis tells us.  God is good and not only good, but it’s impossible to conceive of any greater good than He!

Parents image God for us, yet none of us have had perfect parents.  So, many times we have somewhat of a less-than-perfect picture.   Sometimes it can be quite difficult to know in our hearts that God is deeply good.  When we’ve experienced hurt at the hands of parents or those in authority, it can color how we see Him.  That can happen even without our conscious awareness and even when we are very educated in Theology or are clerics or religious.

One thing I have found helpful and often recommend to clients is to consider ways our parents behaved that were painful and prayerfully.  Make a list.  Mom was like this, but God is like that.  Dad was like this, but God is like that.  Perhaps you’ll have a list of a number of things from both parents.   Seeing down on paper how differently God is and acts toward us from hurtful ways we experienced authority can be an important first step in untwisting confusing messages we took on as children or young adults.

From there, we consider who He is and who we are to Him.  Sometimes give this a try.  Sit in God’s presence and imagine Jesus there with you praying for the Our Father together.  It’s astounding to think that when I pray “Our” Father, I am praying with Jesus to God, His Father and my Father. Let’s take some time to let that reality pierce our hearts and ground us in our identity as a son or daughter of a GOOD Father!

May the Lord give you peace!

 

 

Into the Desert with Jesus

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Into the Desert with Jesus |The Scriptural basis for the 40 days of Lent is found in Jesus’ own going into the desert for 40 days after His baptism| #christianpodcast #catholicpodcast #intothedesertwithJesusInto the Desert with Jesus

The Scriptural basis for the 40 days of Lent is found in Jesus’ own going into the desert for 40 days after His baptism.  In Matthew 4:1-11 we read (on air).

The devil tempted the Lord toward sensual satisfaction, testing the Father, power, and popularity.  These are all ways in which we experience temptation, as well.  We have Jesus’ example to follow and can learn something about Satan’s tactics in this.

Satan approached the Lord after He had fasted for 40 days and was hungry.  How vulnerable are we when we are worn down?  We can expect to be hit with temptations during difficult times and pay special attention to discerning the Lord’s voice at such times, praying, taking authority in Jesus’ Name over anything not of the Lord, and going to brothers and sisters in the Lord to get additional discernment.

It’s particularly interesting that the first two temptations from Satan start with “If you are the Son of God.”  Satan isn’t creative.  He does the same old thing to us!  He starts by getting us to question who God is to us and who we are to Him.  When we move away from the truth of our identity in the Lord, we are capable of anything bad thing.  We need to keep the fundamental truth of who we are to the Father always before our eyes, along with His provision for us, His protection over us, and His Lordship.

May we journey with Jesus into the desert this Lent, knowing He was tempted like us in every way but did not sin.  May we always stay rooted in our identity in who we are to the Father!

May the Lord give you peace!

Lent A New Springtime

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Lent A New Springtime |If you find the time of Lent to be one of heaviness and drudgery, this is the podcast for you!| #ChristonPodcast #Christon #podcast #WholnessHoliness #LentANewSpringtime #Lent Lent A New Springtime

If you find the time of Lent to be one of heaviness and drudgery, this is the podcast for you!  Fr. David and I discuss the beauty of new life that comes from eliminating the distractions and dissipation of life and allowing our hearts to be attracted to the Lord.  Jesus, Himself went into the desert to be with His Father in prayer.  Each year the Church gives us these 40 days to focus more intently and intentionally on our relationship with the Lord.  While the Lenten obligations for Catholics are abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the Fridays throughout Lent and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, there is so much more available to us.

The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.   These are components of the normal Christian life, and yet we focus through them on the Lord in a special way during this season.  Why?  The why is Love.  We are all called to holiness, which is being loved by God, who is love, and being in love with Love.  These three areas help us to quiet the competing noise in our life so we can hear the Lord’s call more clearly and follow Him more closely.

Through prayer, we take time away to speak and listen to Him.  Try finding fresh ways to spend time with the Lord.  Perhaps go for a walk with Him or clear out an area of your house and make it a sacred space with devotional materials, a journal, Scripture, and a blessed candle.  Having a designated area for a designated purpose can help us focus and avoid distractions.   Fasting from excesses of pleasure and noise can help us become more aware of the Lord as the satisfaction of our souls.  We can focus on what we’re giving up, or we can ask the Lord to transform the hunger of our appetite into a hunger for Him.  Through almsgiving, we extend to the Lord, ourselves, and others the same compassion Jesus shows us.

Lent is a beautiful time of new life.  We are heading through these 40 days to the high Holy Days of the Triduum.  We are heading to Calvary with the Lord, and He is with us in our own sufferings and deaths.  Let’s embrace this great opportunity with joy and draw through it more closely to His Sacred Heart!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret Vasquez, LPCC-S, CTT, CITTI

Counseling vs Coaching

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Counseling vs Coaching |Counseling vs Coaching. They are both used in regard to wellness these days.  So, what’s the difference between them?|#christianpodcast #catholicpodcast #counselingvscoachingCounseling vs Coaching

What’s the Difference Between Counseling and Coaching?

Counseling vs Coaching. They are both used in regard to wellness these days.  So, what’s the difference between them?  How do I know which one is right for me?  A governing body regulates counseling in each of the United States.  The laws and regulations of the counselor boards state that counseling is the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.  Counselors are required to have a master’s degree in counseling and to have been supervised for many hours along the way so that they have proven to be equipped to provide that service.  Counseling addresses a place of ‘stuckness,’ if not a place of great pain that might cause us to be stuck in certain unhealthy behaviors and painful emotions.

Coaching, on the other hand, is when we need a lesser degree of guidance.  Perhaps there are areas we’d like to improve, and we could use a voice of experience and some tips, tools, and strategies to improve our ways of relating to moving into greater freedom, joy, and peace.  Just as we might seek out a coach if we are trying to improve an athletic skill, but a doctor if we are suffering from pain that prevents healthy activity, so a coach can provide tools a person can use. Still, a therapist/counselor would be the one to provide the equivalent of medical care for an emotional wound.

Within the world of counseling, nowadays, people are more and more familiar with trauma therapy.  There are many different methods of approaching trauma with varying degrees of results.  If you are looking for a trauma therapist, I encourage you to ask the therapist for testimonials from clients they’ve treated.  Just because someone treats a certain problem does not necessarily mean they do so effectively.  You have a right to be an informed consumer, even as a client.  Intensive trauma therapy is a way of making greater gains in the therapeutic process because of the momentum that an extended number of therapy hours can provide.  That is, you can get on to the place of peace, joy, and freedom faster by putting in the time upfront.

Suppose a therapist is a Christian counselor or a Catholic counselor. In that case, you can open the areas where your spiritual life might be stuck because of emotionally painful experiences. Still, it is never the role of that counselor to force or pressure you into their religious views.  Counselors of faith ought to always receive you with compassion regardless of your spiritual views.

The Lord wants His people free.  Don’t be afraid to seek the freedom, joy, and peace He has for you!

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

Response to Powerlessness

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Response to Powerlessness | Our response to powerlessness. There’s a pattern I’ve noticed as a therapist and experienced personally | #christianpodcast #catholicpodcast #ResponsetoPowerlessnessResponse to Powerlessness ~ Don’t Waste  Suffering!

 

Our response to powerlessness. There’s a pattern I’ve noticed as a therapist and experienced personally.  It’s a deeply frustrating pattern, but it’s quite typical for us as human beings.  When we experience the suffering that comes from being powerless in painful circumstances, the natural fear we can tend to feel so often leads us to a place of self-reliance.  However, because many situations we do not have the power to affect, this self-reliance can surely fail, leading to an experience of inadequacy that we couldn’t take care of the situation or fix the situation.

When we feel inadequate, the natural result is a sense of shame which leads to hiding and isolating ourselves from others and even the Lord, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.  Ultimately, we find ourselves disconnected, even disconnected from who we truly are in the Lord.

Contrast this with when we experience powerlessness and experience those feelings of fear but instead choose to counterbalance the information that the situation is fear-provoking with the fact that God loves us more deeply and profoundly than we can ever fathom! If we go from that fact to the truth of who He is to us as our Good Father and who we are as His beloved daughter or son, then we can trust in and rely on Him.

In that place – knowing that He is with us always and will never leave us orphaned, we experience intimacy with Him.  We are truly seen by Him, held precious by Him, and protected and provided for by Him in eternity, even if our life in this world is suffering.  We see Him, who He is, and come to value Him for who He is regardless of the outcome of the circumstances.  He is the truest, richest reward.  This intimacy leads us to gratitude and a deepening of connection to Him, to ourselves, and to others, as well.  This fuels the cycle of trusting in Him more readily in the future.

Scripture tells us not to fear.  So, what are we to do instead?  How can we choose not to fear when circumstances are frightening?  Counterbalance the information of that emotion of fear with the truth of God’s love, who He is to you as your Good, Good Father, and who you are to Him as His beloved child.  In this way, all suffering is an occasion for intimacy with the Lord.

Don’t waste suffering!

May the Lord give you peace!

Practical Connection Tips

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Practical Connection Tips | We all know that creating and having Practical Connections are harder than we think. No matter your profession, these are some ways you can boost the rapport in your relationships by honoring the dignity of those to whom you’re relating.| #Christianpodcast #CatholicPodcast #WholenessandHoliness #podcast #PracticalConnection #Interpersonal Connection #PracticalTips #ConnectionTips #RelationshipsPractical Connection Tips

We all know that creating and having practical connections are harder than we think. Whether you’re a priest, religious, clergy, teacher, mental health professional, spiritual director, or medical professional, these are some ways you can boost the rapport in your relationships by honoring the dignity of those to whom you’re relating.

The four principles of practical connection are what we all need and for which we long.  These tips can help us be intentional about relating in honoring and even healing ways.

Chosen – directly and intentionally engaging with someone from the foundational principle that all people are made in the image and likeness of God, have inherent value, and are due respect and the same compassion the Lord shows us.

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Don’t interrupt or entertain distractions
  • If someone else interrupts you or your attention is required elsewhere for a moment, acknowledge the interruption (e.g., Say something like, “I’m sorry for the distraction.”)

Known – recognize the other is sharing who they are, which isn’t a challenge or competition with who you are.

  • Listen attentively, making eye contact.
  • Reflect back on what they are saying so they know you get it.
  • Don’t get defensive or offensive.

Valued – all people have the same extraordinary dignity as children of God.  If a person is not behaving in accord with their value and I treat them poorly because of that, then I’m doing the same thing they are.

  • Don’t relate to people for what you can get from them.
  • Even if you must ask for something, recognize that thing or favor is not their source of worth/value.
  • Express gratitude, and say “thank you.”

Boundaries – there’s a place where I stop, and you start, and the Lord has protective boundaries around each of us.  Because we are body, mind, and spirit, we all need healthy boundaries in each area.  It is a matter of good stewardship of myself.  I need to also respect your steps toward good stewardship of yourself and the Lord’s boundaries for you (Jn 15:4).

  • Ask for what you need clearly and calmly. Clear is kind.
  • My boundaries for me cannot infringe upon your boundaries for you. My boundaries are what I need to provide for me, not requiring you to provide for me in ways you aren’t ethically, morally, or legally obligated.

 

The Key to Marriage

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Margaret Vasquez shares that the lord is the key to marriage, that we are called to union with the Lord first and foremost Would you believe that the key to marriage isn’t your relationship with your spouse?  Do you know that we all have the same primary vocation regardless of our state in life?  The truth is that the key to marriage is that our primary vocation is that of union with the Lord!  It’s true!  Monks, hermits, religious, clergy, and married people all share the same call to holiness!  So, if you are married that means you are called to union with the Lord first and foremost and in the living out of that you receive what you need to live your vocation of marriage with an earthly spouse.

 

Only the Lord is infinite and in Him our needs to be chosen, intimately known, perfectly valued, protected, and provided for are superabundantly fulfilled.  If we aren’t going to Him to receive the fulfilment of those needs, we will be running on empty and turning to our spouse to fill us.  What if they are running on empty, as well?  Then we are setup for frustration, conflict, and failure.  If we look to them to satisfy us instead of the Lord, we are looking to make an idol of them.

 

Where relationships usually breakdown is in our relationship to ourselves.  We read Scripture or spiritual reading, listen to homilies, or talks about the Lord and how He sees us and then we go and relate to ourselves in ways that fly in the face of the fact that we are precious, loved, and have inherent dignity.  Then, our relationships to others become really weighty – much weightier than they ought to be – because we are looking for our spouse to tell us enough truth about ourselves to counterbalance the erroneous ways we treat ourselves.

 

Start each day – even if it’s just taking 5 minutes – turn to the Lord and open those needs of knowing you are chosen by Him, intimately known by Him, that you have more worth in Him than you can begin to imagine, that you are protected and provided for by Him and ask Him to help you relate to yourself in a way that is consistent with those truths.  Starting from a place of fullness, then relate to your spouse and see what changes.

 

May the Lord give you peace!

What Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Margret Vasquez shares that the lord promises us power and delivers it through his spiritActs 1:8 “But, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”

Do you feel like you need power?  The Lord promises it to us through His Spirit coming upon us!

If you grew up like many of us did without exposure to such language or experience, you might be wondering just what the baptism in the Holy Spirit is and how it differs from the sacrament of Baptism.  We receive the indwelling of the Holy Trinity at our baptism.  I heard an analogy once from Fr. Hal Cohen, S.J. who had a glass of milk and squirted chocolate syrup into the glass – a big, heavy dose of chocolate syrup – which collected at the bottom of the glass.  He said that was like receiving the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity at Baptism.  Then, he stuck a spoon into the glass and stirred it vigorously until the chocolate was thoroughly mixed with the milk.  It was no longer milk with chocolate syrup.  It was now chocolate milk.  He said that mixing/transforming process was like the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is such a precious and much needed gift of the Father and the Son.  He is generated by the love between them and sent to us to bring us into Their very life.  It’s the whole point of this life, and all eternity for that matter.  The purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to equip us with the spiritual gifts we need to live a supernatural life of grace with a deeper experience of the Lord along with gifts for ministry to others, as well.

 

Many times, the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit brings people to a deeper conversion, greater sense of intimacy with the Lord, hunger for prayer, and the Scriptures and the Mass really take on a deeper meaning and brings us into a more profound realization of the fact that this life is passing away and we have a much more beautiful home that awaits us.

 

If you are longing for more in your relationship with the Lord, ask Him to stir up within you the Holy Spirit who came to dwell in you at your baptism.  Perhaps you may want to check out prayer groups in your area or the Encounter school to get plugged into others who are seeking the Lord in the same way.

 

Thank you, Lord, for the great gift of Your Holy Spirt!  Come Holy Spirit!!!

 

May the Lord give you peace!

Humility: The Path to Freedom and Peace

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

In Mary’s Magnificat she declares her own lowliness and rejoices in the fact that the Lord raises up the lowly.  She sees and openly acknowledges her own littleness.  That’s not a false humility.  She is in touch with the reality of who she is before God.  She also lays out a stark contrast between how God responds to the lowly as compared with how He responds to the lowly.  She told her cousin Elizabeth and continues to tell us that he looked with favor on her as His lowly servant, has mercy on those who fear Him, scatters the proud, casts down the powerful, while He lifts up the lowly, fills them with good things, comes to their help, and remembers His promises (Luke 1:46-55).

 

When we think that the Lord chose her to form Him as a baby and a child, it is striking to consider.  He must have intentionally wanted the human example of a mother with a humble heart who doesn’t look to be mighty, but to acknowledge the Lord’s power.  We know that humble is how Jesus described His own heart (Matthew 11:29).

 

When we consider that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), we have no choice but to consider that God is humble.  Can that be?  That concept can give us pause at first, but then we call to mind that Jesus “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7) and left His throne and took on our humanity, even becomes Food for us in the Eucharist, and subjected Himself to such a horrific death at the hands of His creatures.  St. Francis of Assisi spoke to his followers about “the humility of God”, particularly in the Eucharist.  He was really moved by it and we saw how he imitated that humility in embracing and ministering to the lepers.

 

In Fr. Rick Martignetti’s book, Perfect Love he references St. Bonaventure telling St Clare and her sisters that patience is the hallmark of humility.  He points out Mary’s patience in not bombarding Gabriel with a thousand questions, even though her life might be on the line by being an unwed mother at that time.  Knowing that God would be the father of Jesus was enough of an answer and she could wait patiently for God to provide in His way and in His time.

 

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35)”.  Are we willing to be overshadowed?  Our humanity can really bristle at that.  How much anxiety can we lose and how much freedom, peace, and joy can we gain when we embrace our lowliness and rely on the Lord to lift us up rather than trying to do it ourselves.

 

May the Lord give you peace!

 

Overcoming Blocks to God’s Love

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Overcoming Blocks to God's Love: This week Margret Vasquez shares that despite the fact that God loves us infinitely and intimately, sometimes the experience of it is distant. #cahtolicpodcast #catholictherapist #faith #catholicpodcast #christianpodcast #God's love #overcoming

Overcoming Blocks to God’s Love

Overcoming Blocks to God’s love is important, but God’s love is key to the spiritual life.  As we’ve discussed in the past couple of shows, He loves us infinitely and intimately and sent Jesus to reveal His love for us, to make it manifest to us in a real way we could see through the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas.  Yet, despite this fact, many times we can struggle to cling to this notion, and sometimes the experience of it is distant.

In simple terms, we can divide the blocks to God’s love into two categories: internal and external blocks.  Predominately, the external blocks tend to be associated with a lack of human maturity, and the internal ones are related to a lack of spiritual maturity.

Overcoming External Blocks

Examples of external blocks can be things like preoccupation with worldly concerns, and lack of focus on the true purpose of this life.  We can be so consumed with coming and going to and from work and tasks of the day that we forget the goal of this life is really about our relationship with the Lord.  It can be easy to forget Him if we don’t make a concerted effort to keep Him central.  He is invisible and doesn’t often speak audibly, so it requires tuning our senses to a spiritual setting, like switching a radio from one of human transmission to spiritual transmission.  As we learn to see Him in the tasks, relationships, and gifts of the day, to hear Him in the leading of His “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13) we grow in human maturity and become more available to the experience of Him being Personally present to us in the day-to-day.

 

Internal blocks can come from woundedness that causes us to doubt His goodness or the fact that He loves us deeply and cares for us intimately.  He wants to touch every area of our lives and our being and draw us into union with Himself.  Hurtful messages we received from painful relationships or situations can leave us doubting this or walled off in a misguided attempt at self-protection.  We may also have a lack of appreciation for God’s love.  We might assume the time where God was involved with people ended after the Acts of the Apostles or is only in the rare exception like in the lives of canonized saints.  The truth is that the Lord’s love is always present to us and He longs to bring us ever more deeply to a place of living in the full joy, and peace of that reality.

 

May the Lord give you peace!

 

God’s Love Incarnate

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Margaret Vasquez shares how Christmas has become so secularized, but Christmas is really about God’s loveThe Incarnation of Jesus is so crucial.  Jesus is God’s love made manifest to the world!  For this reason, St. Francis of Assisi saw Christmas as the highest of the feast days!  When he made his conversion, God started to work in him in new and beautiful ways and right at the heart of it was Jesus coming as man.  St. Francis was so touched by the humility of Jesus in coming like one of us that he set up the first nativity scene.  He reasoned that it would move people’s hearts to see this with their own eyes.  He set up a live nativity scene.

 

Blessed John Duns Scotus, a 13th century Franciscan philosopher, was convinced that love is central and that even if man had never sinned, God the Father still would have sent Jesus to manifest the Father’s love for us.  So, Jesus coming to reveal the love of the Father is the reason for the season of Christmas.  It’s fundamentally important for us to not just know what we’re doing, but why we’re doing what we’re doing.  Looking at why the Father sent Jesus is just as important.  When we understand God’s purpose in sending Jesus, we gain critical insight into the Father and the Son and who we are to them and who they are to us.

 

Christmas has become so secularized, but Christmas is really about God’s love.  Yes, Jesus came to save us from our sin, but the reason WHY is because of God’s deep and intimate love for each one of us.  All of creation is born out of the love of God!  Jesus does save us from our sin, but the fact that He came out of the depth of His saves us from the attraction to sin…His love is so much more attractive!  Jesus opens up the life of the Father and work of the Spirit and the life of the Holy Trinity.  Out of that intimacy revealed in the Incarnation of Jesus a life of holiness flows and is the transformative power of our lives.  Cooperating with – receiving and responding to His love – is the Kingdom of Heaven that is at hand!

 

Identity Is Key

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Margaret Vasquez shares how our identity is key in revealing God's love to othersIdentity is at the core of human and spiritual integration.  It’s key to us being able to act from a mature human place and to being spiritually mature.  There are so many things that clamor for our identity and that some gravitate towards – being a member of a certain club, or organization, having wealth or affluence, being a member or fan of a team.  While none of these things are bad, they are NOT where our identity lies and provide no basis for our identity.

 

I was listening to a podcast recently by the founder of the South African Satanic Church who recently converted to Christianity because of a profound experience of Jesus.  He said that one of the things people are told when they join the satanic church is that they were rejected in other experiences in life because they were meant to be satanists.  Ugh!  Can you see the battle for their identity?  We see the same thing in our culture where so many suffer and struggle for their identity from their sexual brokenness.  It’s so heartbreaking because, again, this is not where our identity lies.  St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  He’s laying out where our foundational identity is – in the Lord!

 

We even see in Jesus’ life how essential His identity was and how at the beginning of His public ministry the Father publicly announced His identity as His Beloved Son in whom He was well pleased.  Jesus’ identity as the Beloved Son of the Father was crucial to His life as both human and Divine.  At the foot of the Cross we see Our Lady, St. John the Beloved, and Mary Magdalene, all of whom had come to know their identity as loved by God in a particular way.

 

When our identity is founded in who we are as God’s children, we gain courage and confidence.  Courage by definition means to take heart.  It’s a big difference if we’re taking our own heart or the Lord’s Heart!  Confidence means acting with faith.  How essential that we act with faith in Him rather than faith in ourselves!  That’s a game changer!

 

Our identity IS in being God’s children!  He who is all good, loving, wise, knowing, powerful and Creator of all that is calls us His own children, His own sons and daughters.  Being His child means there’s a relationship.  It’s not just a role or title, but refers to the relationship He brings us into by His Spirit of Adoption.  Knowing we are chosen, known, valued, protected, and provided for by HIM  – THAT is where our identity lies.

 

Keeping It Real

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Margret Vasquez shares how to give our Lifes meaning and purpose by "keeping it real" In the last podcast with Coach Kelly Herrmann, there was something she shared about how she has approached coaching over the years that helped her align her actions with her beliefs.  I was really struck by it, and it has been a gift to me to distill those principles out of the arena of athletics (pun intended) and this is something that applies to all of us regardless of if we are athletes, coaches, parents, students, professionals, single, married, religious sisters, brothers, or clergy.

 

What Coach shared was that she realized she had to do was to develop her philosophy of coaching based on the truth and align her goals with those priorities.  These are steps we can all take to help make our lives more meaningful, purposeful, consistent, and integrated.  Without doing so, we can tend to relegate spiritual things to Sunday or Church.  By being conscious and intentional about establishing our priorities so as to lead to our goals which are consistent with our philosophy founded and grounded in the Truth.

 

In doing this, I really see the most foundational truth of life is the TRUTH – who is the person of Jesus.  Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan philosopher in the 13th century said that Jesus came to manifest the love of God the Father.  He also taught that the greatest thing we can do is to choose to love the good and God is the greatest good.  This being my philosophy lays out the goals 1) receiving God’s love, 2) loving Him as the greatest good, 3) loving what He loves (me and others) and 4) affirming the good.  I’ve found that affirming the good in others, especially when they’re being difficult or challenging is naturally before me because I know in a very thought-out way it aligns with my philosophy and the truth of who God is and who I am in Him.

 

I’ve found this to be a very helpful decision-making tool and helps me keep my behaviors in line with my beliefs.  I challenge you to pray about it and consider doing it.  I hope it blesses you as much as it has blessed me.

 

May the Lord give you peace!

Margaret

 

Christians in the Arena

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Coach Kelly Herrmann explains that the key to integrating faith in sports is to have a clear philosophy based on truth.

Join me for the final episode in this series with Coach Herrmann and I discuss the role sports can play in character formation!

 

Coach Kelly Herrmann – now a wife, mom, grandma, health coach, author, and speaker was a fixture in sports at Franciscan University of Steubenville for decades.  Having given up a full ride to play division one basketball, she attended FUS and was athletic director, head coach of women’s basketball and volleyball and intramural coordinator.  She has refereed, umpired, announced games, coached little league soccer, run sports summer camps, and mentored other coaches.  She’s a wealth of experience and knowledge and comes from a faithfully Catholic perspective.

Coach explains that the key to integrating faith in sports is to have a clear philosophy based on truth.  Then have clear priorities based on that philosophy.  Coach Kelly shares about a time when Franciscan men’s and women’s basketball teams traveled together.  On the bus the two teams sat separated by the coaches in the middle.  One of her players came to her and asked if they could mix in with the men’s team on the way back from the game for the sake of bonding with the men’s team.  She easily denied the request and was able to explain to her player that bonding with the men’s team wasn’t a priority, whereas study, rest, bonding with her fellow teammates were priorities.  She was able to quickly make a good decision and explain it with a solid basis to the player who was able to accept it.  It wasn’t an arbitrary refusal.  There was a purpose behind it.  Priorities serve the goal and move you in the direction of reaching those goals.  Set and stay faithful to your priorities.

As Christians, evangelizing is always a goal – seeking to witness faith everywhere.  There are situations in sports that force a coach and player to be countercultural.  A few examples are things like controlling one’s temper, language, service in relationships, and modesty.  If you know your priorities, you can easily come to the right decision in such situations regardless of the zeitgeist of the day.

Some practical steps you can implement today are to define your philosophy of play and coaching based on St. John Paul II’s injunction to follow the Divine Master in everything. Based on that, define your priorities, then integrate those priorities throughout your approach to sports.  Finally, don’t be afraid to be countercultural!  BE BOLD!

 

To connect with Coach Kelly Herrmann for speaking engagements, she can be reached at kherrmanniam@outlook.com.

 

The Role of Sports in Christian Character Formation

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

This week Margret and Coach Kelly Herrmann discuss the role sports can play in character formation!Join me as Coach Herrmann and I discuss the role sports can play in character formation!

 

Coach Kelly Herrmann – now a wife, mom, grandma, health coach, author, and speaker was a fixture in sports at Franciscan University of Steubenville for decades.  Having given up a full ride to play division one basketball, she attended FUS and was athletic director, head coach of women’s basketball and volleyball and intramural coordinator.  She has refereed, umpired, announced games, coached little league soccer, run sports summer camps, and mentored other coaches.  She’s a wealth of experience and knowledge and comes from a faithfully Catholic perspective.

 

I asked Coach:

 

  1. Are there specific character/faith lessons you look to teach through the season?

 

Some of the many character and faith lessons we can easily glean from faithfully coached and approached athletics are hard work, personal investment, dedicated commitment, right/honest/and charitable communication, servanthood, humility, unity, and modesty.  Sports are a microcosm of life and so much can be taught through them because they really test the mettle of which a person is made.

 

  1. Can sports be used for character formation even with children?

 

Because of developmental differences associated with age, the lessons that can be taught are different, but sports are quite useful in character formation – even with children.  Some of the many lessons first learned through sports by children are self-control, how to handle disappointment, delaying gratification and celebrating the giftedness and skills of others.

 

  1. If so, are the lessons different depending on the ages of the athletes – little league, middle school, college, etc.?

 

The many lessons learned through sports are the same in type but differ in degree and can really be of great benefit to athletes of any age, especially when coached from an authentic and consistent faith perspective.  It’s essential that a coach know their own priorities as they coach and use the process of practice and play to reinforce the main priority of our lives – growth into the fullness of who we are called to be in Christ.

 

To connect with Coach Kelly Herrmann for speaking engagements, she can be reached at kherrmanniam@outlook.com.

 

Faith Formation in Athletics

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Margret Vasquez shares how focusing on doing rather than being is a trap we can all fall into but keeping the Lord the priority is essential to developing a faithfully Catholic athletic environment. #podcast #christianpodcastMeet Coach Kelly Herrmann – Faith Formation in Athletics

 

Today, I’m joined by Kelly who I’ve known for about 30 years.  She’s coached, refereed, umpired for decades in sports of all types and is now a wife, mother, grandmother, and health coach, author and speaker. Kelly has a passion for forming athletes in faith and spirituality and really integrating the two. She grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan and played basketball in the upstairs of their hay barn through the winter. She was living the student athlete life, doing the scorebook, coaching junior high leagues, announcing games even in high school and was truly involved in every aspect of sports year-round.

 

Kelly gave up a full ride to play division one sports to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville back in the 1980s for the sake of being in a place of faith formation.  She had three older siblings who attended FUS and having visited many times.  She had visited a lot and felt a certain fulfillment at the university in the people, the atmosphere, and the faith culture.  Even though early on she had protested coming to Franciscan, she realized it was the place where she could become more of who the Lord created her to be.  While it was difficult to give up the dream of being a college basketball player, Kelly got deeply involved in intramurals and never regretted making that choice.

 

Focusing on doing rather than being is a trap we can all fall into but keeping the Lord the priority is essential to developing a faithfully Catholic athletic environment.  What is the most important thing? Is winning everything?  No.  What we want to be saying to our kids is “how was your game?”  How did you do?  How did you play?”.  We play to win because the virtue of magnanimity calls us to do our very best! God wants us to strive and do our best, but that doesn’t always result in winning.  The process of day-to-day dedication and growth is the real core.

 

We discuss forming faith through athletics – the topic addressed in a chapter Kelly authored in the book Coach Them Well with St. Mary’s Press.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly referred to as Confession, is a great and powerful occasion for grace and is a beautiful gift of healing that brings about an immediate change. This week Margaret discusses the sacrament with Fr. David, a priest of over 55 years. #podcast #christianpodcastThe Sacrament of Reconciliation, what we as Catholics commonly refer to as Confession, is a great and powerful occasion for grace and yet sometimes we hesitate to go out of fear, shame, and embarrassment.  Margaret discusses the sacrament with Fr. David in his role as a priest of over 55 years.

 

Confession is a beautiful gift of healing that brings about an immediate change.  Because we have an ongoing relationship with the Lord, we have immediate access to healing and forgiveness right away by turning to the Lord in repentance, even before we go to the sacrament of confession.  This sacrament has a bigger dimension to it because we are in relationship with ourselves, the Lord, and others.  Confession is an occasion of personal healing, forgiveness, transformation, and mercy.  It makes amends and restores us to right relationship with ourselves and the community because we don’t just sin against ourselves, but others, as well.  We receive from the Lord through the power of His death and resurrection, healing, mercy, and compassion.

 

Question:  Does the priest think poorly of us when we confess our sins to him?

 

Answer:  Priests go to confession themselves and have to deal with the same human experience of sinfulness, guilt, and shame.  They understand that sense of apprehension.

 

Question:  How is it for you, Fr. David, as a priest?  Do you think those confessing their sins are horrible?

 

Answer:  No.  As priests we are to put people at ease and create a context of mercy.  The priest is not the judge, he is the pastor.  God is the judge, forgiver, and healer.  As priests, we are always to help people get over their fears, and hesitation.  The priest should be able to help you set that aside and open to the healing mercy of God.  If priests don’t do so they are violating who they are as ministers.

 

Question:  What is the seal of confession?

 

Answer:  The priest, under no condition, can reveal what is shared in confession and that is absolute.  He can’t even say anything to that person themselves about what he confessed without getting his permission.

 

Question:  When you see the penitent again do you think about their sins?

 

Answer:  There is often a divine grace of forgetfulness so that priests many times don’t even remember what was told to them.

 

The Importance of Self-Forgiveness

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Self-forgiveness is highly important to mental health and spiritual growth. When we see sin as coming from pain, we are able to look at it, acknowledge it, repent of it, and receive the great gift of forgiveness. #podcast #christianpodcastSelf-forgiveness is highly important to mental health and spiritual growth.  If we don’t have it, we can stay stymied and even spiral downwards in our relationships to ourselves, God, and others.  Sometimes, we are hard on ourselves out of fear of failing even worse if we ‘let ourselves off the hook’.  However, it has the opposite effect and leads us away from a healthy and holy future.

Sometimes, people are stuck because of a lack of self-worth.  First, we need to receive the gift of forgiveness from God, our Father.  By receiving that from the Lord, then we need to internalize that stance and the mind of Christ toward ourselves.  Without this, we can stay blocked and stuck in our lives.

Many times, we can be shocked by how we fell. It can seem like we’re trying to hold ourselves to a higher standard, but it’s fundamentally a mindset of pride.  We might be surprised by our behavior, but the Lord who is all-knowing is not surprised.  It can be helpful to recall times of experiencing the Lord’s closeness prior to falling and recognizing that He foreknew that we were going to fail.

At its root unforgiveness toward ourselves changes our mode of operation to one of not being lovable and then we relate to others out of that mode – be it to the Lord, to ourselves, or to others.  We tend to project our own estimation of ourselves onto the Lord and others.  That can really skew our perception of others and put us in an impenetrable fortress of self-hatred.  Rather than achieving the goal of holding ourselves to a higher standard, we can so thoroughly discourage ourselves that we don’t even want to engage with the Lord in a relationship.  It can set us up for failure.  When we open to the grace of the Lord and receive His forgiveness, we can gain spiritual freedom.

In Matthew 7:1 and again Luke 6, the Lord tells us not to judge.  He doesn’t say not to judge others, but not to judge.  Judging is beyond our wisdom and insight.  We don’t understand what makes us tick the way the Lord does and He alone has the ability to do so rightly.  Blessed Julian of Norwich said, “God sees sin as pain in us.”  When we see sin as coming from pain, we are able to look at it, acknowledge it, repent of it, and receive the great gift of forgiveness.

 

 

 

Prayers versus Prayer

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Most people don’t receive formation in prayer.  We don’t get taught how to pray and so it can be difficult to pray unless it is a structured activity.  So, we can tend to look to fill the time with formal prayers and journaling.  What is the difference between prayers and prayer?Most people don’t receive formation in prayer.  We don’t get taught how to pray and so it can be difficult to pray unless it is a structured activity.  So, we can tend to look to fill the time with formal prayers and journaling.  What is the difference between prayers and prayer?

Prayer isn’t just ‘caught’ it needs to be ‘taught’.  Prayer is based on the Lord’s grace and so it is a gift.  People can have a difficulty with a prayer time because we’re used to projects and don’t know how to sit still.  We can default to prayers someone else made.  Prayer is our relationship with the Lord and communicating heart to Heart with Him.

How do we do that?  A good place to start is simply being available to the Lord.  We don’t have to generate holy feelings or thoughts.  Simply being present to He who is present to us.  Being available means being ready and not preoccupied with other things.  It’s simply holding space for the Lord.

From there, we surrender our ideas and agendas, understanding the Lord wants prayer more than we do because He longs for relationship with us.  What does surrender mean?  It’s giving up our plans and our preconceived ideas of what needs to happen. He is the initiator and is all-wise and all-loving.

In His presence, we converse with Him which entails sharing with Him and listening to Him.  He can speak to our hearts by bringing certain thoughts and senses to us.  He is alive and well and is a good communicator!  We can ask Him for what He wants us to know and to lead us.  This communion leads us to union with Him.

Practically, that can look like using the Scripture or spiritual reading as jumping off points if we stop at the points where we find our spirit particularly touched and open ourselves to more of His work of grace in those areas.

So, we start by being available to the Lord, surrendering our agendas, and then moving from the words of prayers into being attentive to grace when our hearts are moved by particular notions, concepts, and images.

Ephesians 3:14 and following.

 

 

 

Conversion 2.0: God in My Life vs Me in God’s Life

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Fr. David shares about how he experienced the Lord telling him he was running his own life and asked him to let the Lord Himself run his life.Romans 14:7 says that we don’t live or die for ourselves, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.  The Scriptures dismantle the illusion that life is our own.  The language can be used, “have you accepted God into your life” and yet it isn’t my life.  When we zoom out and really look at the whole person, we realize this is God’s life we participate in.  He is the initiator and orchestrator.  Keeping in mind that this life is the Lord’s gives us the proper perspective.

We can come up with our own plans and ask the Lord to bless them or we can submit ourselves to Him surrendering to His activity within us and His leading.  When we are baptized in Him, we are baptized into His life.  This is all a process of deeper conversion and transformation.  Fundamentally, we can seek a position of control, or surrender to the Lord’s omnipotence and give ourselves over to His will.

Fr. David shares about how he experienced the Lord telling him he was running his own life and asked him to let the Lord Himself run his life.  The repentance and conversion thus led Fr. David to drastically changed his life.

When we realize this is really the Lord’s life in which we participate it really calls us on beyond not doing the things on the naughty list to an ever-deeper experience of surrender.  In this way, we radically realize there is always more of God, deeper union into which we are called, and we no longer have the tendency to evaluate ourselves as better than our neighbor because we aren’t drinking, having illicit relationships, acting out of anger, and the like.  Rather, we are continually called on to continual growth in intimacy with the Lord.  This keeps life fresh because there is always more and He makes all things new.

Living as though the Lord is in our lives rather than us in His life, we can tend to compartmentalize spirituality.  Recognizing that we are in God’s life disposes us to incarnate Him to the world.

Journey From the False Self to the True Self

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

How do we make that journey?  It’s a process of grace and coming to understand more and more who God is and what He asks of us.The true self is who we really are – made in the image and likeness of God as His sons and daughters.  We’re in this place when we’re calm, compassionate and confident.  The true self responds out of love and is immutable.  The false self, by contrast responds from a place of fear.  In many places the Scriptures talk about putting off the old man and putting on the new man.  The false self is the old man, and the true self is the new man.

How do we do that?  How do we make that journey?  It’s a process of grace and coming to understand more and more who God is and what He asks of us.  We come to realize how powerless we are.  How we relate to our powerlessness is a process of conversion in relationship to God, ourselves, and others.  By receiving from the Lord and relating to ourselves as He does, we grow in our ability to reach out to others in compassion.  It’s a wonderful and challenging process.

Experiencing powerlessness is the moment of testing where we make the choice to respond in a sinful way or in a courageous way.  Powerlessness is scary and we can either be sent on a negative cycle toward disconnection or a positive cycle toward intimacy with the Lord.  When we see that there’s a positive direction we can move, it can really be a game changer that turns the painful bitterness to sweetness.  The same way sugar is the enemy when we’re on a diet, fear is the enemy in the spiritual life.  How do we handle the fear?

Powerlessness can lead us to pride, self-reliance, an eventual sense of inadequacy (because we aren’t all powerful), and shame which then leads to isolation and disconnection and an even deeper sense of powerlessness.  Conversely, when we encounter powerlessness, we can respond out of humility, relying on God because He is all-good, omnipotent and He is FOR US.  This then leads to a change in our heart giving us hearts of gratitude, love and trust in the Lord, and a sense of intimacy with Him.

Suffering and Healing

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

God intends great things for our lives, but when we look at our personal sufferings, that can be hard to hold onto.  What are we to do with suffering when we don’t experience healing? God intends great things for our lives, but when we look at our personal sufferings, that can be hard to hold onto.  What are we to do with suffering when we don’t experience healing?  There can even be a misconception that there is a certain point in time at which I am finished with my healing journey or that there are people who don’t experience suffering.  Neither of these are true.  We all go through sufferings to one degree or another in this life and healing is an ongoing process.

Since suffering is an ongoing process, healing ought to be, as well.  The Lord’s mercies are renewed each day and He always has greater freedom, joy, and peace for us.  They can be a regular part of our daily prayer times.  If we normalize the concept of suffering, we can be alleviated of the pressure and burden that we aren’t good enough if we still have areas of woundedness.

Life is a process and there’s always something that is going to come forward where the Lord wants to bring us into greater wholeness and deeper relationship with Himself.  Healing is certainly a good thing and something to be open to and seek.  However, there is time.  Life is a process.  The Lord is ever present to us and can even surprise us with healing.  If the Lord is permitting us to suffer, it can be a great challenge for us to trust in God’s love and goodness, but we know that He is all good, all loving, and all wise.

As Catholics, we are privileged to have access to the Lord in His Real Presence.  We don’t have to wait for a healing Mass because every Mass is a healing Mass.  We don’t have to fear pain and suffering when they come, and the Lord hasn’t yet healed it because He is working an even greater healing in us in the waiting.  We don’t suffer alone.  When we unite our sufferings to the Lord’s and suffer them with Him knowing He is suffering them with us, they become an occasion for intimacy.  This is the notion of atonement.  At-one-ment…being at one with Jesus.

What the Lord Taught Me When I Lived with a Serial Killer

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

In 1997, I ended up in a roommate situation that turned out to be one of the most dramatic experiences of my life, but the Lord actually used it to teach me tremendous lessons about His wisdom, goodness, power, provision, and desire to be intimately involved in the details of our lives.  In 1997, I ended up in a roommate situation that turned out to be one of the most dramatic experiences of my life, but the Lord actually used it to teach me tremendous lessons about His wisdom, goodness, power, provision, and desire to be intimately involved in the details of our lives.

I was living in Tampa, FL and with little resources needed to find an inexpensive housing option.  I responded to a classified add where two people were looking for a third roommate.  Shortly after moving in, one of them relocated because of business and we needed another roommate.  The man who moved in turned out to have a long history of violent crimes against women and began murdering women he did not know.

Without any knowledge of his past, the Holy Spirit enlightened me as to the danger I was in and led me, despite my reluctant cooperation, to the information by which we were able to undo his alibi and get a murderer off the streets.  The Lord is certainly able to do anything and uses us in His plan when we cooperate with His grace and direction.

Many years later, the Lord asked me to offer Mass for the same person’s conversion and he confessed to one of the murders he had denied for 25 years.  Finally, that victim’s family was able to gain closure and did not have to withstand a retrial when Florida law changed that called the sentencing into question.

God’s goodness knows no bounds, his power knows no limits, and His desire for the conversion of every single one of us reveals the depth of His love and relentless commitment to us no matter what we’ve done.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Margaret and Fr. David discuss The Context of Holiness by Fr. Marc Foley, OCD as he examined human and spiritual integration in the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Margaret and Fr. David discuss The Context of Holiness by Fr. Marc Foley, OCD as he examined human and spiritual integration in the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  Her motto of doing little things with great love leaves us a wonderful example of bringing spiritual principles to life.

She experienced a great number of sufferings thru her childhood that became places of insecurity that she overcame thru choosing to make the heroic choices.  She deepened in her sense of security through her identity in the Lord.  This gave her great growth in maturity and bore pure fruit of love, even as she was suffering tremendously with tuberculosis.

Erik Erikson talks about stages of psycho-social development and how we can become stuck at earlier stages when there is wounding that happens.  Yet, her devout life afforded her another parent – God the Father – who she could draw strength from when her earthly parents failed in different ways.  This gives each of us great hope since none of us (other than Jesus) has had perfect parents.  We can follow her example, too.  Our identity is informed by who we are in the Lord.  As we become conformed to this who we are becomes reformed.

Through making choices to exercise great love, she received healing and excelled as novice mistress and in heroic charity that led to her being a saint and doctor of the Church.  She integrated her piety and the principles of our faith in her daily life and relationships. Thérèse chose the gifts of Divine Love and manifest that to her sisters in how she dealt with even the most difficult members of her community.

The Way of Imperfection by André Daigneault is a wonderful little paperback book that fleshes out some core concepts of Thérèse’s ‘little way’.  This fantastic work can plug us into some great helps in becoming conduits of the Lord’s grace.

Baptism in Fire!

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Margaret Vasquez, LPCC and Fr. David Tickerhoof, TOR discuss the notion of the baptism in fire that was foretold by St. John the Baptist. Margaret Vasquez, LPCC and Fr. David Tickerhoof, TOR discuss the notion of the baptism in fire that was foretold by St. John the Baptist.

 

There were graces of renewal flowing from Vatican Council II that brought a deepening of life, power, spiritual gifts, and in particular intimacy of relationship with the Trinity.  This is known as the charismatic renewal or baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Today, we see a resurgence of renewal from the Encounter movement out of Brighton, Michigan.  There is a focus on understanding and practicing the spiritual gifts flowing from the relationship with the Lord.

 

There’s another dimension known as the baptism in fire (Mt 3:11-12) John the Baptist spoke of when he said the Lord would baptize us in the Holy Spirit and fire.  What is that fire?  In Scripture fire represents the Lord’s presence, purification, and sometimes punishment.  In particular, fire seems to represent power.  That fire becomes transforming power!  We ought not to ignore, but instead be aware of it, open to, and pray for that deeper transformation.

 

Margaret shares her story of being prayed with for the baptism in fire and how astounding that grace was and was so other than anything she had ever experienced.  The power of God’s love took away every fear, even the fear of death and kept Margaret tethered to the lordship of Jesus even in years of wandering and brokenness where she ended up questioning her faith.

 

The revelations St. Catherine of Genoa received regarding purgatory essentially saw what is at times consolation, sometimes suffering, even the purifying fires of purgatory to be one fire – the fire of His love!  That can ground us, fill us with gratitude, and help us remember that the Lord is always loving us through whatever He allows in our lives, even if it seems very difficult at the time.

Applying the Principles of Human and Spiritual Integration

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

As we develop in these areas we grow in both human and spiritual maturity.  These principles help us to focus on being rather than doing.Peace, freedom, and joy are available to us in this life when we live the principles of chosen, known, valued, boundaries and openness in our relationships with the Lord, ourselves, and others!

 

The Lord has chosen each one of us personally, knows us intimately, values us completely, and protects and provides for us.  We are likewise called to respond to Him by choosing Him, growing in union with Him, valuing Him for who He is, and receiving His boundaries as gift!  These becoming guiding principles for our lives to lead us toward the abundance He has for us.

As we develop in these areas we grow in both human and spiritual maturity.  These principles help us to focus on being rather than doing.  We can focus on how we are being and, in that way, prevent so many problems.  When we get the being right, the doing takes care of itself.

 

We are called to make a conscious and intentional choice to take on the mind of Christ.  He is the epitome of love and compassion and it’s essential that we imitate Him in how He sees us.  By collaborating with Him we preserve the gift of peace that was His first gift to us.  We can examine our consciences by these same principles.  Our life of communion with the Lord manifests itself in our relationships.  The connection with the Lord leads to connection with others if we are connected to ourselves.  Focusing on the Lord’s deep love for us changes everything!  It is the power for transformation for our lives.

 

The Lord has intimately connected how we treat our neighbor with our love for Him.  So, charity is the hallmark virtue that puts it all together.  St. Thérèse of Lisieux lived this in her own life by the deep life of charity she lived even while she was so young and suffering terribly from the symptoms of tuberculosis.

 

Challenge:  As you read the Mass readings, look to see how the readings fall into the categories of being chosen, known, valued, and/or boundaries.  All of Scripture is about relationship and so you’ll see these themes throughout all of Scripture.

 

Charity Toward Others and Healthy Relating

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Compassion, mercy, and forgiveness are essential for healthy relationships.  We become the hands and feet of the Lord by relating to others the way He relates to us. Compassion, mercy, and forgiveness are essential for healthy relationships.  We have to start from receiving the compassion of the Lord and in order to really do so I have to be compassionate toward myself.  If not, I’ll just deflect the Lord’s love.  That’s not selfish or narcissistic.  It’s taking on the mind of Christ who is compassion itself!  It’s authenticity and honesty, but fully embracing His stance of compassion toward ourselves.

We can learn to express compassion in our daily interactions.  It doesn’t need to be complex or complicated.  It just requires really acknowledging the other person by paying attention to them as individuals and giving those extra couple of seconds to treat them as humans with dignity for even a moment or two.  These things are very evangelistic or ‘pre-evangelistic’.

When we start from such a place, we’ll see the profoundly healing effects in what would otherwise be complicated circumstances.  To operate out of compassion for others we need to have the freedom that comes from not operating out of our own concern for ourselves because our needs have first been satisfied to overflowing by the Lord.

Understanding the principles we all need to have – being valued as individuals, known as good, and our boundaries respected – we can operate very fluidly and confidently.  We start without fear because we understand what is needed and so we don’t have inordinate fear. Changing how we relate to ourselves changes our mode of operation to one of compassion that naturally overflows.  In this way, the Lord’s love can flow not just into us, but through us.  We become the hands and feet of the Lord by relating to others the way He relates to us.

All of this is a process!  It’s a beautiful, life-giving flow of receiving His love, internalizing that and relating to myself with greater compassion and then allowing that to flow out to those I meet each day.  We are able to relate out of love rather than fear.

Personal Integration and Charity Toward Others

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

It’s essential for lives of wholeness and holiness that we grow in communion with the Lord, personal integration, and charity toward others.  We like to encapsulate all these concepts with the simple term ‘connection’.  The principles are the same in all of these relationships, being chosen, known, valued, protected and provided for.

 

Today’s conversation focuses on peace, freedom, and grIt’s essential for lives of wholeness and holiness that we grow in communion with the Lord, personal integration, and charity toward others.eat relationships particularly through personal integration and charity toward others.  This is particularly done through having mercy toward ourselves and toward others, which has been a continual theme of the last few popes.  It’s really essential to our holiness and well-being.

 

Ironically, we need to make sure we are charitable toward ourselves before we can have the charity to extend toward others.  We can tend to skip over this concept, falsely viewing it as selfish, but it’s Scriptural.  “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Mark 12:31).  That becomes our mode of operation.  If we have a mode of charity and love, that is the mode through which we relate to the Lord and by which we reach out to others.

 

Charity toward ourselves requires us to be patient and intentional in our relationship to ourselves.  We need to intentionally choose to relate to ourselves from the basis that we are ‘very good’ based on our dignity as children of God.  This allows us the sense of safety by which to operate out of a deep sense of safety and peace.  It sets us in a place of being able to really conceive that the Lord loves us deeply and then to be able to truly receive His love.  Relating to ourselves out of a contrary attitude sets us up to be lied to by the evil one and to fall into discouragement.  Self-talk is so crucial because it reveals those attitudes we have toward ourselves.  We need to respect our own boundaries in our self-talk, not overextending ourselves, running ourselves ragged, and stressing ourselves out beyond what is healthy.

 

Boundary setting with others is important because it helps to establish rules of engagement so we can give each other the opportunity to love and respect each other.  They are a gift by which we can work towards common ground for relating in freedom and mutual respect for each other’s needs.  They can free us up and help us avoid undue and unspoken expectations, resentment, and conflict.  Peaceful and healthy relating doesn’t have to be complicated.

 

Listen to more episodes here!

The Importance of Human and Spiritual Integration

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Wholeness and Holiness Podcast: The Importance of Human and Spiritual IntegrationEpisode #4 – The Importance of Human and Spiritual Integration

As Christians we can tend to over spiritualize, and secular society tends to under spiritualize.

We need a paradigm by which to understand how to build a firm foundation that includes both human and spiritual maturity.

A healthy human maturity helps us break down and apply the spiritual information we take in.  It helps us be refreshed by the Living Waters of the Lord and allows them to flow out of our lives in a way where they become part of who we are and how we live in relationship to others.  To the truths of our faith, we ought to ask, “What does this have to do with me and how does it apply in my life?”  We are called to let them pierce our hearts, renew our minds, and get applied in our lives.

We can see the pillars of wholeness and holiness in ‘connection’, that is: communion with the Lord, personal integration, and charity and compassion toward others.  There are common principles across each of these relationships – chosen, known, valued, boundaries, and openness is a byproduct of those factors.

Oftentimes our relationship to ourselves gets overlooked and yet it’s really the hinge point.  We need to really receive the infinite love of the Lord and imitate that love in how we relate to ourselves because that same mode of relating becomes how we relate to our neighbor, as Scripture tells us to love our neighbor the way we love ourselves (Mk 12:31).  We operate out of fear when we lack a healthy sense of connection, and we operate out of love when we have that healthy connection.

The fruit of knowing we are chosen by the Lord is a sense of belonging, being known perfectly by Him provides us with the most profound intimacy, being established in the fact that our value is inherent in our dignity as children of God we have the fruit of humility, the Lord’s boundaries (His protection and provision for us) bears the fruit of gratitude, and the openness that is a byproduct of those four principles leads to the fruit of authenticity.

CLICK HERE to download the notes for this podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digging into the Biology of Trauma

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Continuing in our understanding of the biology of trauma, trauma is anything that overwhelms the person’s normal ability to cope. Continuing in our understanding of the biology of trauma, trauma is anything that overwhelms the person’s normal ability to cope.  Inherent in that definition is the fact that you and I are different people with different pasts and perspectives.  I might be traumatized by a situation that you may not feel strongly effected by.  That doesn’t make one of us right and the other wrong.  It’s actually due to a variety of factors having to do with what we perceive as threat.

When we are traumatized, the brain can encode any of the sensory stimuli (sights, sounds, smells, emotions, even our own body sensations) as signs of life-or-death threat because it associates those experiences with the trauma in which we felt so significantly in danger.  Sometimes we are aware of those associations when they are reexperienced, but we may very well be unaware of them because the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) sits deep inside the brain and right on top of the brain stem.  The same way we are unaware of our respiration, digestion, heartbeat and the like we can be just as unaware of our emotions turning from joyous to anger due to encountering a reminder of a past trauma.  When this happens, we can respond with a vehemence and intensity that disturbs even ourselves and, if this happens often, can leave us feeling broken, vulnerable and very different from others.

With this background, we can see that we are not our emotions, rather we have emotions.  Therefore, we can respond to our emotions rather than responding out of emotions because emotions are information.  So, we can take that information into account and yet we aren’t bound to respond as though it is Gospel truth.   Rather, we can account for the fact that it may be skewed.  We have emotions.  We are not our emotions.  They are important information, but only one source of information.  We can prudently pay attention to the information and take into account other information, as well.  The greatest information we have is that we are dearly beloved children of the Omnipotent, Omniscient, All-Loving God who is madly and passionately in love with us personally.  No matter what others have done to us and no matter what we have done He will us it – Scripture tells us He uses “ALL THINGS” for our good.

May the Lord give YOU peace!

 

Key words:  trauma, information, misinformation, emotions, limbic system

 

Introduction to Trauma Series: Avoiding Spiritual Identity Theft

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

Introduction to Trauma Series: Avoiding Spiritual Identity TheftEpisode #2 – Introduction to Trauma Series (Avoiding Spiritual Identity Theft!)

Have you or someone you love endured sufferings in which you continue to feel stuck?  Does this leave you feeling confused or even fearful, perhaps even rejected or abandoned by God?  Unfortunately, there are so many types of trauma and such experiences are so prevalent that it’s difficult to imagine someone who hasn’t been traumatized at one time or another.

 

Have you ever been told or thought that if you only had greater faith you’d be able to overcome feelings of abandonment, rejection or insecurity?  In this series Margaret will help unpack how the neurophysiology of trauma can leave us trapped in the emotions from traumatic experiences regardless of how great our faith is.  Come to a deeper understanding of what happens in the person during traumatic experiences and deepen in your sense of God’s love.  Grow in compassion for yourself and others.

 

Due to a very specific biological reaction during trauma, even decades later we can default to a mode of fear leading to cortisol (a stress hormone) and shutting off oxytocin (a feel-good hormone associated with love, trust, and friendship) when we encounter reminders of those traumatic experiences.  Knowing the body responds in this way can help us to cling to the truth and not give into a skewed perspective that is fear-based.

 

The evil one wants to divide you off within yourself, disconnect you off from others, and even give you a sense of separation from God by spiritual identity theft!  He wants you to think that your symptoms of feeling fearful and rejected are really who you are.  The truth is they aren’t who you are.  They are only how you are doing in a moment.  Understanding where those feelings come from can help unmask the lies we can take on and operate out of and even more it can help us stay grounded in the truth of our identity as God’s beloved children!

 

My first book, More Than Words:  The Freedom to Thrive After Trauma, is available on Amazon.com and will provide you with more information about how traumatic experiences can impact us even decades later.

 

 

What is Wholeness and Holiness Podcast?

A Production of the Ultimate Christian Podcast Network.

What is Wholeness and Holiness Podcast?Episode #1 – What is Wholeness and Holiness Podcast?

Have you ever wondered how our natural human lives and the spiritual life are connected?  Would you believe that the study of psychology and counseling can actually serve to illuminate and deepen our relationship with the Lord?  It’s true!  He made us in such a way that our human and spiritual lives are intertwined.  The more we live lives of human and spiritual integration the more we will deepen in the sense of peace and fulfillment He has for us.

In this podcast, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Certified Trauma Therapist Margaret Vasquez shares with you many of the insights she has gained through over 16 years of providing intensive trauma therapy to clients of all ages and seeing the world through the lens of her degree in Theology.  Author, TV and radio guest, trainer and retreat master, Margaret is passionate about bringing people to a deeper participation in the intimacy the Lord has for them.

Tune in weekly for a greater understanding of the spiritual life, religion, Church, and what it all has to do with giving your everyday life greater peace, joy, and purpose.